food poisoning caused by the campylobacter bacterium.
It is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the United States, affecting
more than 2.4 million people every year.1
Campylobacteriosis occurs much more often in the summer months than in
the winter months. Infants, young adults, and males are most likely to get the
is usually caused by handling poultry (such as chicken or turkey) that is
contaminated with the campylobacter bacterium and is raw or undercooked. For
example, you can be infected by cutting poultry meat on a cutting board and
then using the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other
raw or lightly cooked foods. Drinking contaminated milk or water from
contaminated lakes or streams can also result in infection.
Campylobacteriosis usually is not spread from person to person. But this
can happen if you have the condition and do not properly wash your hands. Some
people have become infected through contact with the infected stool of a dog or
The symptoms of
campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, cramping, stomach pain, and fever within 2
to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria. Your diarrhea may be bloody, and you
may feel sick to your stomach and vomit. The illness usually lasts 1 week. Some
people don't have any symptoms at all. In people with
impaired immune systems, campylobacteriosis can be
Your doctor will do a medical history and a physical exam and ask you
questions about your symptoms, foods you have recently eaten, and your work and
home environments. A stool culture can confirm the
You treat campylobacteriosis by
managing any complications until it passes.
Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the
most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and
other treatments, unless your doctor recommends them. Most people
recover completely within a week after symptoms begin, although sometimes
recovery can take up to 10 days.
To prevent dehydration, take
frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large,
loose stool you have. Soda
and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important
electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they
should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with your normal diet
as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough
nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a normal diet will also help you feel
better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also
avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have
In more severe cases, your doctor may
In rare cases, long-term problems can
result from campylobacteriosis. Some people may have
arthritis following campylobacteriosis. Others may
develop a rare disease called
Guillain-Barré syndrome. This occurs when your immune
system attacks your nerves, which can lead to
paralysis that lasts several weeks and usually
requires that you go to a hospital.
prevent campylobacteriosis by practicing safe food handling (adapted from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It is important to pay particular attention to food
preparation and storage during warm months when food is often served outside.
Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and
possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the
temperature is above 90°F (32°C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Campylobacter. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/campylobacter.
October 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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