What is campylobacteriosis?

Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease. It is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria and can affect humans and animals.

These bacteria are fragile. They die if they dry out or are exposed to oxygen. They grow only in places with less oxygen than the amount in the atmosphere.

Most people become ill two to five days after exposure. They are usually sick for one week. Common symptoms are diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Campylobacter can spread to the bloodstream and cause a serious life-threatening infection for people with compromised immune systems.

What can be done to prevent Campylobacter infection?

Some simple food handling practices can help prevent Campylobacter infections.

  • Cook all poultry products thoroughly. Make sure that the meat is cooked throughout (no longer pink) and any juices run clear. All poultry should be cooked to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165° F.
  • If you are served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
  • Wash hands with soap before preparing food
  • Wash hands with soap after handling raw foods of animal origin and before touching anything else.
  • Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by using separate cutting boards for foods of animal origin and other foods and by carefully cleaning all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw food of animal origin.
  • Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk and untreated surface water.
  • Make sure that persons with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
  • Wash hands with soap after contact with pet feces.

Learn basic food safety tips and seasonal safety information.

How do people get infected?

The organism is not usually spread from one person to another.

Most cases come from eating raw or undercooked poultry meat. When you handle contaminated meat and then prepare other food, the bacteria can spread to the uncontaminated food.

One way to become infected is to cut chicken or turkey on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or knives to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can spread to the other foods.

A very small number of organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. Freezing reduces the number of bacteria on raw meat.

Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts.

How is the infection diagnosed?

Many different kinds of infections can cause diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. Campylobacter infection is diagnosed when a culture of a stool specimen yields the organism.

Physicians who diagnose campylobacteriosis and clinical laboratories that identify this organism should report their findings to the local health department.

Learn which organisms cause foodborne illness and if you are at risk.

How can campylobacteriosis be treated?

Almost all persons infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts. In more severe cases, antibiotics such as azithromycin or erythromycin can shorten the duration of symptoms if given early in the illness. Your doctor will decide whether antibiotics are necessary.

Please visit the CDC Campylobacter webpages for more information.

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