Campylobacter infection is a common cause of intestinal infection in over 2 million people each year in the United States; and it is the leading cause of diarrhea and foodborne illness. Once inside the human digestive system campylobacter infects and attacks the lining of both the small and large intestines. The bacteria can also affect other parts of the body. In some cases—particularly in very young patients and those with chronic illness or a weak immune system—the bacteria can get into the blood stream (called bacteremina).
This bacterium is most often found in food contaminated when it comes in contact with animal feces, particularly in chicken. Any raw poultry may contain campylobacter, including the organic and “free range” products. Bacteria can also be transmitted from person to person when someone comes into contact with fecal matter from an infected person, especially a child in diapers. It can also be transmitted in water where animals graze, milk that is not pasteurized, or household pets.
Campylobacter usually occur 2 to 5 days after a person eats contaminated food, but my take up to 10 days to appear. The main symptoms of infection include:
• Abdominal cramps
• Nausea and vomiting
• Watery diarrhea, sometimes bloody.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Signs of dehydration include:
• Sunken eyes
• Dry mouth and tongue, dry skin, less urination (pee) and a dry diaper for several hours.
Most kids will recover without medication. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic, especially if the child is very young or the symptoms are severe or won’t go away (persists). With mild diarrhea and no dehydration, kids should eat and drink plenty of fluids except for fruit juices and soft drinks because the can make the diarrhea worse. Diarrhea usually stops in 2 to 5 days. In some cases diarrhea will last longer.
Call your doctor if:
• Diarrhea continues more than 1 week
• There is pus or blood in the stool
• Child has diarrhea and unable to drink fluids because of nausea or vomiting
• Fever above 101°F
• Signs of dehydration
Campylobacter grows easily if contaminated foods are left out at room temperature. The bacterium is sensitive to heat so food should be thoroughly cooked. Follow these easy safety steps:
• Make sure the thickest part of any chicken being cooked reaches 165°F.
• When bringing home meat from the grocery store, put the meat in the coolest part of the car or in something that keeps things cool (insulated).
• Defrost meat and poultry in the refrigerator or microwave, making sure the juice doesn’t drip on anything else. Do not use the same cutting board to cut the meat and then cut the vegetables. Wipe the cutting board clean before cutting each one.
• Never leave food out at room temperature over two hours.
• Use pasteurized milk and eggs
Wash your hands well especially after preparing food, chicken or turkey, changing diapers, and contact with pets or farm animals.