'Flu' Might Not Be Flu, Could Be Caused By Your Refrigerator At Unsafe Temperatures

11:14 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - Experts say, in some cases, what many people believe is the flu is actually food poisoning and it could be caused by your refrigerator.

Food poisoning has "the same symptoms of most things (including) vomiting, diarrhea, usually resolves itself in 24 hours," says Kansas State University food safety expert Doug Powell. "One difference is, there's no 24-hour flu."

The Mayo Clinic says 'stomach flu' or viral gastroenteritis is often caused by contact with an infected person or ingestion of contaminated food or water.

Before you blame a bad restaurant, check out your refrigerator and make sure it is at 40 degrees or below.

Experts say a common contaminated food risk you can control at home is ensuring your food is stored at safe temperatures.

Is your refrigerator above 40 degrees? Report it to tips@wusa9.com.

Real flu symptoms include body aches, congestion, and fatigue, while symptoms of "stomach flu" - viral gastroenteritis or food poisoning - include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Food safety expert Catherine Donnelly at the University of Vermont says many home refrigerators are not at safe temperatures and in some cases, food poisoning can be deadly.

"There are certain pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes which can grow to high levels in foods such as turkey when foods are stored in the refrigerator for extended periods beyond what is safe," Donnelly said. "Approximately one third of the individuals who acquire listeriosis infections will die."

Donnelly recommends protecting yourself by buying an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer.

Donnelly says you want to make sure your refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below and that you're following safe food handling at home.

Experts say food stored above 40 can make you very sick.

In fact, the USDA says bacteria on food can double every 20 minutes at unsafe temperatures.

Do you think your refrigerator could have made you sick...we want to know. E-mail us at tips@wusa9.com, or connect with us on Facebook.

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