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
What causes campylobacteriosis?
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
What are the symptoms?
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
How is campylobacteriosis diagnosed?
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
How is it treated?
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.
How can you prevent campylobacteriosis?
prevent campylobacteriosis by practicing safe food handling (adapted from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Shop safely. Bag raw meat, poultry, and fish
separately from other food items. Young children can get sick from touching
packaged poultry, so don't allow them to touch or play with packages of poultry
in your grocery cart. Drive home immediately after finishing your shopping so
that you can store foods properly.
Prepare foods safely. Wash your
hands before and after handling food. Also wash them after using the bathroom
or changing diapers. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables by rinsing them well with
running water. If possible, use two cutting boards—one for fresh produce and
the other for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Otherwise, be sure to wash the
cutting board with hot, soapy water between each use. You can also wash your
knives and cutting boards in the dishwasher to disinfect them.
Store foods safely. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze meat, poultry,
eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours. Make sure your refrigerator
is set at 40°F (4°C) or colder.
Cook foods safely. Use a clean meat thermometer to determine
whether foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Reheat leftovers to at least
165°F (74°C). Do not eat
undercooked hamburger. And be aware of the risk of food poisoning from raw fish
(including sushi), clams, and oysters.
Serve foods safely. Keep
cooked hot foods hot [140°F (60°C) or above] and cold foods cold [40°F (4°C) or below].
Follow labels on food packaging.
Food packaging labels provide information about when to use the food and how to
store it. Reading food labels and following safety instructions will reduce
your chances of becoming ill with food poisoning.
When in doubt,
throw it out. If you are not sure whether a food is safe, don't eat it.
Reheating food that is contaminated will not make it safe. Don't taste
suspicious food. It may smell and look fine but still may not be safe to
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.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.