Special Salmonella Concerns of the Elderly
Because DeFusco's zeppoles have been distributed to events at senior centers it is important for elderly people who may have been exposed to infection to understand their heightened degree of risk of contracting a Salmonella infection due to a number of factors.
The occurrence of bacterial infection is a function of several major variables: (1) the virulence of the bacterial pathogen, that is, its ability to cause severe disease; (2) how the pathogen is transmitted to the “host”—for example, whether it is airborne, foodborne, blood borne, etc.; and (3) host susceptibility—i.e. how well the host can defend itself against the bacterial pathogen. Increased susceptibility, in turn, may result from two different processes: a bigger infectious dose in a given case of disease may cause a more severe infection, and physical characteristics particular to an individual host may render him or her less able to limit the spread of infectious microorganisms from the intestinal tract to the bloodstream.
Morbidity and mortality in the elderly from infectious disease is far greater than in other populations. For instance, death rates for infectious diarrheal disease alone are five times higher in people over 74 years of age than in the next highest group, children under four years of age, and fifteen times higher than the rates seen in younger adults. Published studies attribute the elderly’s heightened risks, both of infection and mortality due to enteric infectious disease, to several factors: (1) the aging of the gastrointestinal tract (reduced gastric acidity/reduced gastric mobility); (2) a higher prevalence of underlying medical disorders (co-morbidity factors); and (3) malnutrition and a decline in the immune response that leaves the host less able to defend itself against infectious agents.