The bacterium Camplobacter jejuni is responsible for causing the majority of cases of Campylobacteriosis. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimate that nearly 2.5 million Americans are affected by this foodborne illness each year. Symptoms, which usually occur within 5 days of exposure, typically include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. They often last a week and rarely extend beyond ten days. The most common cause of the illness is raw poultry, either due to improper handling, preparation, or consumption. However, other causes include non-pasteurized milk, insufficiently cooked meat, pets carrying the infection, and water that has been contaminated. While nearly always occurring in isolated incidents, larger outbreaks are possible and are primarily caused by unpasteurized milk.
A doctor can diagnose a Campylobacter infection with a stool sample. However, they are usually not treated because nearly all ill persons recover on their own. Drinking fluids until diarrhea ceases is helpful and in severe cases, antibiotics may be used. The use of antibiotics is determined by doctors on a case by case basis. Basic sanitation and cleanliness are the best means of prevention. These include:
- Thorough cooking of poultry. The pink color should be gone and the juices clear. Breast meat should be cooked at a minimum of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, thigh meat at 180.
- Hands should be watched with soap and water before handling raw food.
- All cooking equipment (cutting board, countertop, knives, bowls, utensils, etc) should be washed with soap and hot water following the preparation of raw food. They should not be used in the preparation of other foods.
- Do not drink non-pasteurized milk or water that has not been treated.
- Hands should be thoroughly washed after any contact with animal feces.
While recovery is usually simply a matter of time, in rare cases more serious complications can arise. Arthritis is one long-term complication which can arise from a Campylobacter infection; another is Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The latter is marked by weakness culminating in temporary paralysis caused by attacks on the peripheral nervous system by the immune system. The infection triggers this action and it usually become evident within a few weeks following the illness. Immediate treatment, in most cases, leads to a full recovery.