Campylobacteriosis (CAMP-EElo-back-tier-EE-oo-sis) is caused by a bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni (je-june-eye), which is found worldwide in the intestinal tracts of animals. The bacteria are spiral shaped and can cause disease in animals and humans.
Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with handling or eating raw or undercooked poultry meat. Campylobacteriosis causes gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever in domestic animals and humans. Young animals and humans are the most severely affected.
How do you get infected with Campylobacter?
Most people become infected by eating contaminated food. Campylobacter is found in most raw poultry and is common in raw meat. It can also be present in unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
It is impossible to tell from its appearance whether food is contaminated with Campylobacter. It will look, smell and taste normal so correct handling and cooking are very important. It is also possible to get a Campylobacter infection through contact with infected pets, farm animals, and someone else who has the illness.
Disease occurs 1 to 10 days after exposure and causes diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and muscle pain. Most cases clear on their own in 3 to 5 days. Occasionally, some cases can develop into more severe conditions. People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for these severe or recurrent infections.
Campylobacter can be carried on your hands so it is important that hands are washed thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the toilet, after changing infants in nappies, before handling and eating food, after handling raw food (especially raw poultry), after gardening and after contact with pets and other animals.
Thorough cooking of food kills Campylobacter. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry or eggs. Poultry, including liver, should not be eaten if pink in the middle.
To prevent the contamination of food:
• store raw foods (such as poultry and meat) in sealed containers in the bottom of the fridge or freezer to prevent any fluid dripping or spilling onto other ready-to eat food. Cover all foods in the refrigerator and freezer to protect them from contamination
• Wash hands immediately after going to the toilet or handling raw foods and before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food
• Use different chopping boards, trays, utensils and plates when preparing raw foods and ready to eat food. If you have only one chopping board wash it well in hot soapy water before reuse
• Thoroughly wash all dirt off any raw vegetables and fruits before preparing and eating them
• Dry dishes with a different cloth to that used for wiping hands or bench tops; wash dish cloths regularly People experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms should not handle or serve food, care for the elderly or children until 2 days after the symptoms have stopped.
Food should not be left at temperatures that encourage the growth of Campylobacter. Refrigerated food should be kept at less than 5 degrees Celsius. Raw foods, especially poultry and meat, should be stored in sealed containers and shelved below cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination. Cold foods that are to be served hot should be reheated quickly until all parts of the food are thoroughly heated. Hot foods should be kept at above 60 degrees Celsius until ready to eat.
Your doctor or local hospital will request a stool sample to be collected for laboratory testing.
How are Campylobacter infections treated?
There is no specific treatment for Campylobacter infections. Most people will recover fully withouttreatment.During this time it is important to drink plentyof fluids as diarrhoea or vomiting can lead todehydration and you can lose important sugars andminerals from your body.
If you feel sick and have difficulty keeping fluids down try taking small sips of fluid frequently. Avoid tea, coffee, carbonated drinks or alcohol. Always dilute sugary drinks even if you would not normally dilute them. In some cases, if the infection is very severe, you may be given antibiotics. If you are given antibiotics it is essential that you complete the course as prescribed.