How To Recognize Campylobacter Infection

Campylobacter is a bacteria; at least a dozen species of Campylobacter have been implicated in human illness.  Here are some tips to help you recognize a Campylobacter infection.
 

  1. Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States.  Diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain and fever develop within 2-5 days of Campylobacter infection.   Diarrhea is often bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.  In most people, the illness lasts for a week to ten days.  On the other hands, some persons with Campylobacteriosis (an infection by Campylobacter)  exhibit no symptoms at all.

  2. Campylobacter infection is more commonly found in infants and young adults than in other age groups, and more frequently in males than females.  Campylobacter also occurs more frequently in summer months.

  3. Handling raw poultry and eating undercooked poultry meat are believed to be the most common ways that people are exposed to the Campylobacter bacteria.  Very few Campylobacter organisms are required to cause illness; one drop of raw chicken juice contains enough organisms to sicken a person.
  4. A diagnosis requires a special lab culture. To diagnose Campylobacteriosis, a stool sample will be cultured. 

  5. Most people suffering from a Campylobacter infection will recover without complications.  Patients need to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids while they have diarrhea.  Sometimes antibiotics such as erythromycin are prescribed.  In some cases, diarrhea can recur after apparent recovery or last longer than the usual course of illness

  6. Occasionally complications from Campylobacteriosis are severe.  Sometimes people who become infected by Campylobacter can develop Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease in which the nerves that exit the spinal cord inflame, leading to numbness and paralysis.  Approximately one out of every 1000 Campylobacteriosis cases progresses to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  7. If you do receive a diagnosis of Campylobacter infection, you may receive a call from the local health department.  The National Centers for Disease control started a Campylobacter surveillance program in 1982, which was made more even comprehensive in 1996.  If you do get a call of this nature,you'll be asked a variety of questions about the nature of the illness, the possible sources of infection, and so on.  Don't take the questions personally-it's simply an effort to better understand the sources of Campylobacter infection and to track its frequency.  Many health officials believe that the incidence of Campylobacter is significantly higher than the level reported.

A vaccine for Campylobacter is currently undergoing clinical trials.  Meanwhile, sound food safety practices are the best prevention against Campylobacter infection.

 

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