Campylobacter Infection

What is Campylobacter infection?

Campylobacter infection is caused by bacteria called Campylobacter. Because the bacteria usually enter the body through food, the infection is also called food poisoning.

What is the cause?

The bacteria can live in the animal or human intestine. Bowel movements can spread the bacteria to soil or water.

You may get infected if:

  • You eat or drink dairy products that have not been pasteurized (heated to kill certain bacteria) by the manufacturer.
  • You drink water or eat food that has the bacteria in it, especially raw or undercooked chicken.
  • You eat food that has been handled by someone who is infected.

The infection can spread easily from person to person in day care centers where infected children are in diapers or not able to use the toilet without help and the caregivers don’t wash their hands well.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Belly pain
  • Loose, watery, unformed bowel movements
  • Blood in the bowel movement, especially in children
  • Fever

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:

  • Test of a sample of your bowel movements
  • Blood tests

How is it treated?

Mild infections often get better in 5 to 8 days without treatment. For a serious infection you may need to take antibiotic medicine for several weeks to make sure all of the bacteria are gone.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Take all of your medicine exactly as prescribed. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, the infection may come back.

In addition:

  • Drink enough liquids to keep your urine light yellow in color.
  • Rest your stomach and bowel but make sure that you keep getting fluids. Clear liquids include water, weak tea, fruit juice mixed half and half with water, Jell-O, or clear soft drinks without caffeine (like lemon-lime soda). Stir soda until the bubbles are gone.
  • Avoid liquids that are acidic, like orange juice, or caffeinated, like coffee.
  • If you have severe diarrhea, your body can lose too much fluid and you can get dehydrated. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for children and older adults. You may also be losing minerals that your body needs to keep working normally. Your healthcare provider may recommend an oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is a drink that replaces liquids and minerals.
  • You may eat soft, plain foods. Good choices are soda crackers, toast, plain noodles, or rice, cooked cereal, applesauce, and bananas. Eat small amounts slowly and avoid foods that are hard to digest or may irritate your stomach, such as foods with acid (like tomatoes or oranges), spicy or fatty food, meats, and raw vegetables. You may be able to go back to your normal diet in a few days.
  • If you have cramps or belly pain, it may help to put a hot water bottle or heating pad on your belly. Cover the hot water bottle with a towel or set the heating pad on low so you don’t burn your skin.
  • Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) without checking first with your healthcare provider. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take this medicine for more than 10 days.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before using nonprescription diarrhea medicine.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent Campylobacter infection?

These steps can help prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands and clean any dishes or utensils before you prepare, cook, serve, or eat food. Keep kitchen counters and other food preparation surfaces clean. Replace used dishcloths and kitchen towels with clean ones often.
  • Cover any sore or cut on your hands before preparing food. Use rubber gloves or cover the sore with a clean bandage.
  • Make sure the milk, cheese, and juice products you eat and drink have been pasteurized (heated to kill certain bacteria) by the manufacturer.
  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator or a microwave. Do not let meat stand at room temperature.
  • Keep juices from raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is cooked enough to kill bacteria. Pork should be heated to an internal temperature of at least 160°F (71°C). Ground beef should be cooked until a thermometer inserted into several parts of the patty reads at least 160°F (71°C). Ground beef can turn brown during cooking before bacteria in the meat are killed. For whole chickens and turkeys a temperature of 180°F (82°C) is recommended for thigh meat and 170°F (77°C) for breast meat.
  • Refrigerate any food you will not be eating right away.
  • If you are served undercooked meat at a restaurant, send it back for further cooking. Ask for a clean plate, and for sandwiches, ask for a new bun.
  • When you are camping or hiking, drink water only after it has been purified with boiling, proper filtration, or disinfectant tablets (available at most sporting or camping stores).
  • Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. Teach children to wash their hands carefully with soap and water after using the toilet and before having a snack or meal.
  • If you take care of young children, wash your hands often and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can’t spread to other surfaces or people.
  • Keep children with diarrhea home from daycare and school until the diarrhea stops.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-20
Last reviewed: 2014-10-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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