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Campylobacter: What You Need to Know

What is a campylobacter infection?

Campylobacter infection is a type of food poisoning that affects about 1.5 million people yearly in the U.S. It's usually acquired by consuming contaminated water and foods - especially raw or undercooked poultry.

What causes Campylobacteriosis?

A campylobacter's main hosts are poultry and livestock. It lives inside the animal's digestive system and these animals can carry this bacteria with no symptoms and show no signs at all. Sometimes, a cow's udder comes into contact with infected cow manure or any other livestock feces, thereby causing an infection and contaminating the milk production of the cow. In other cases, the bacteria may reside in water and sewers.


How do you get infected with Campylobacter?

Campylobacter infections are usually the result of consuming food or water that has been contaminated with feces from a person or animal who is infected – such as raw or undercooked poultry. Reports have also claimed that Campylobacter infections result from exposure to infected animals, backyard flocks, or petting farms.  These organisms are also notorious for being able to spread through kitchens especially if the area isn't cleaned before and after food preparation.


Is campylobacter infection contagious?

No, it is not. When a person is infected with the bacteria, it is not easily transmissible. However, there is one exception. An infected person can pass on the bacteria if they do not properly wash their hands after using the bathroom and they come into contact with another person.

How does campylobacteriosis spread?

Campylobacter is not usually inherited but it can spread through unsanitary means, such as improper washing of hands after using the bathroom. A person can also get infected if they come into contact with dog or cat's pee. Most of the time, the bacteria live inside the intestines of chickens but they do not show any symptoms. When livestock and poultry are slaughtered, the bacteria can be carried down from the intestine to the meat.

Who is at risk for the infection?

There is a higher chance of campylobacter infection in babies and kids but it can happen to anyone who is older. Some studies show that it is more common in males.

When do symptoms of campylobacteriosis start and end?

Usually, the onset of a campylobacter infection starts 2 to 5 days after the person consumes Campylobacter contaminated food and will run its course after one week.

What are the symptoms of campylobacteriosis?

Like all the other foodborne illnesses, campylobacter infections usually cause severe stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting accompanied by diarrhea (often bloody).

Do campylobacter infections cause complications?

Yes, it can. Severe cases may lead to irritable bowel syndrome, temporary paralysis, and arthritis. Unfortunately for people with weakened immune systems, blood disorders, AIDS or receiving radio or chemotherapy, Campylobacter can get into the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

How is campylobacter diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you are infected with the bacteria, he or she may request for a stool sample to be sent to the laboratory for testing. Other times, they may request a body tissue or fluid sample from your body. The tests could either be through a culture that isolates the bacteria or a rapid diagnostic test that detects any genetic material of the bacteria.

How is campylobacter treated?

Most of the time, a person can recover from a campylobacter infection without any need for antibiotic treatment. Doctors always recommend that the best way to cope with the illness is to drink extra liquids to replenesh fluids lost from the vomiting and diarrhea.

Although, those who have pre-existing comorbidities might need antibiotic treatment. These people include adults who are 65 years or older, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems (blood disorders, AIDS or those receiving radio or chemotherapy).

Some types of antibiotics may not work for other types of campylobacter. So it is definitely recommended that you visit your local hospital in order to determine the effective type of antibiotic through your laboratory test results.

Do infected people need to be isolated from work or school?

Only people with diarrhea should be isolated as the bacteria from their feces could potentially make its way into other surfaces or they could come into physical contact with a non-infected person.

How do you prevent the infection of campylobacter?

Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water can rid of any Campylobacter bacteria and other harmful germs that are on your hands especially after using the bathroom, before and after preparing food and handling dirty items.

Keep raw poultry away from other foods such as other meats or vegetables and fruits. You can make use of separate cutting boards or kitchen accessories or you can clean them properly before using it again. Do not forget to clean kitchen counter tops before and after using as well.

All poultry and foods containing poultry should be cooked to reach a minimum temperature of 165°F. To be sure, in case you are served with undercooked poultry at a restaurant, you can request for it to be sent back to the kitchen to be thoroughly cooked.

Raw milk can carry Campylobacter bacteria and other harmful germs that can make you ill. It is always best to consume pasteurized milk as this rids of the milk from any contaminants.

Do not drink water if you do not know where the source is. Do not drink water from a stream, river, pond, or lake or bodies of water that are open to various types of contaminants.

As animals are also linked with Campylobacter, a good tip is to ensure that they visit the vet regularly and feed them with nutritional food and clean water.
Read more

Recent Campylobacter Reports

15th September, A meat pizza I’ve been diagnosed with severe Campylobacteriosis due to this | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting See Less

The MCDH is investigating an increase in Campylobacteriosis cases in McHenry County. They have identified 8 cases of Campylobacteriosis between Aug. 17 and Aug. 30, which is 4 times more cases compared to the previous two weeks and 3.33 times more cases in August compared to July.... See More No common source of infection has been identified at this time.

According to MCDH the best way to prevent a campylobacteriosis infection is to take these precautions:
- Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or untreated water from lakes, rivers or ponds
- Practice good hand hygiene, especially when handling puppies or kittens with diarrhea
- Wash hands before, during and after preparing food
- Cook all raw meats to proper temperature
- Use soap and hot water to wash cutting boards, counters or utensils used to prepare raw poultry, seafood or meat to prevent cross contamination with other foods
- Avoid handling food, caring for others, patient care or daycare work if symptomatic.

In case you experience Campylobacter symptoms such as diarrhea (often bloody), fever, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, report it now. It can help to detect & resolve outbreaks early and prevent others from being harmed, and it enables better surveillance. If symptoms persist, seek medical care.

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As of August 29th, 2022, we have received 8 reports citing 29 people sick after eating at the "Best of Baltimore" event on August 18th, hosted by Baltimore Magazine, and held at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. The most common symptoms mentioned are diarrhea,... See More fever, and vomiting after eating at this party, one of the attendees cited receiving a medical diagnosis for Campylobacter. Some of the complainants mention having seafood from the vendors.

Some report excerpts here:

"The 2022 Best of Baltimore party, my sister and I attended. We believe the raw shrimp was not properly handled and both came down with diagnosed food poisoning."

" I got sick along with several others in my wife's company. Brutal couple of days. Still experiencing symptoms."

"Went to the Best of Baltimore event 8/18 and developed diarrhea, fatigue, stomach cramps, sweating, clammy skin. It’s 8/27 and I still have diarrhea and stomach discomfort"

The organizer, Baltimore Magazine, has sent out an email to attendees addressing the situation - excerpt here:

"Dear Best of Baltimore Party attendee:

It has come to our attention that some people who attended this year's party experienced an illness in the days after. Because we are unable to definitively identify the cause, we proactively contacted the Department of Health.

In order to conduct their investigation, the Department of Health will be sending out a survey to all event attendees to gather more information (questions are likely to inquire about recent travel, recent contact with anyone who was ill, what may have been consumed at the event, etc.)."

If you attended the Best of Baltimore event and experienced or still are experiencing food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and vomiting, it is important to report it. It can help to detect & resolve outbreaks early and prevent others from being harmed, and it enables better surveillance. If symptoms persist, seek medical care.

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My boyfriend and I went to this event. He got very sick and I did not. He was sick until the 28th with diarrhea, nausea, chills, fever, and fatigue. We were incredibly concerned as he couldn't eat or drink anything during this time without severe stomach pain and diarrhea. The only thing that he had that I didn't was the chicken liver pate.
2 Reply 4 weeks ago
Who made the pate’?
Reply 3 weeks ago
I only ate from two of the vendors. One was THB the other was on the opposite side of the room and I don’t remember the name. I had one small plate from the restaurant I don’t remember the name of and two from THB. Two days... See More later Saturday night at 9 pm I started feeling really ill. lower back pain, nauseated, diarrhea and the worst chills with every muscle in my body cramping. Within hours 102.5 fever and exploding out of everywhere simultaneously. felt terrible still Monday. Dr ordered stool sample. By Wednesday, still sick as a dog, Dr confirmed food poisoning with Campylobacter bacteria. Extremely dehydrated. he put me on Ciprofloxcosin for 5 days Today is the day 3 on antibiotics and I’m starting to feel better. This is very serious. People can have health related issues that cause cardiac and digestive issues that can become life changing dealing with this. we need to figure out which food vendor is responsible. what I can add is I only ate from THB and one that was across from THB but a little to the left. Baltimore magazine needs to publish the floor layout Of vendors so we can narrow this business down. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Fever, Vomiting, Chills See Less

I did not get sick, but my partner did. I are just about everything at the party. The ONLY food my partner ate that I didn’t was the pâté, which was on the opposite side of the room from THB (a couple tables down from the elevator). Hope this helps! Sounds like that bacteria commonly comes from uncooked poultry, which would align with the pate right?
Reply 4 weeks ago
I can confirm I was also (still am) very ill from the event and did not have THB, so likely the other vendor. I had nearly all dishes on that side except Clavel. Do you remember the dish?
Reply 4 weeks ago
I have all the Same symptoms and ate almost everything there. This is really brutal and have been sick since the same time Saturday night and still not better.
Reply 4 weeks ago
Can you describe the food from the other vendor?
Reply 3 weeks ago
All of the same symptoms and timeline. What was the TBH dish. I'm not sure if I ate there or not.
Reply 3 weeks ago
I had snakes salmon from THB and something from the other side. That was it. Sounds like it was the chicken.
Reply 3 weeks ago
Smoked salmon. Typo
Reply 3 weeks ago
After less than ten hours after eating a sandwich, recurrent diarrhea and pain in the intestines appeared. I consulted a doctor who first thought of a gastro and then after analysis because the pain persisted by intensifying (at the limit of bearable) we did find a bacterium... See More (campylobacter jejuni/coli) in my body, bacteria from sick or/and poorly cooked meat. Now on antibiotics the bacteria seems to finally be leaving. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Something else, Gas See Less

Wednesday 8/17, After eating at a food truck in Tuesday - my husband experienced dizziness the next day, headache. Early thursday during the night diarrhea that was black from blood. Went to the ER - he was admitted. Hemoglobin dropped from 14-7. He had endoscopy and colonoscopy.... See More Endoscopy clear. Colonoscopy revealed inflamed colon. Stool sample revealed Campylobacter Jejuna. Antibiotics and two units of blood given - in the hospital 4 days. The food truck serves Ahi Tuna which my husband ate along with Chicken meals prepared from raw chicken. I had chicken and had no problems. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Headache, Dizziness See Less

Ate from this location. 2 days later I was in the hospital tested positive for Camplyobacter bacteria (aka food poisoning). | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Other See Less

Had a culture come back positive for campylobacter jejuni. The symptom onset was a week ago shortly after eating there, which was the only restaurant I had eaten at in 3 days. Campylobacter is spread via the fecal-oral route, so an employee did not wash their hands... See More appropriately. I will never return to this restaurant. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Other See Less

My husband and I were there July 1-8, 2022. Began with stomach ache on the 3rd and very sick the eve of the 4th. Major bouts of diarrhea, nausea, throwing up, fever, chills, and abdominal pain. Stayed in our room and husband went out to get us... See More water and immediately returned to room between his bouts with diarrhea. Upon returning home, 2 visits to Urgent Care, 1 visit to ER, several bags of fluids, a fecal test confirmed campylobacter. Antibiotics, stomach cramping meds, and meds for nausea. We are still experiencing diarrhea and stomach cramps. We will have our last dose of antibiotics today and will follow up with our PCP on Friday. I’m not sure.   We are only in the resort and had a variety of foods.   Only ventured out to go to Duns Falls. NA | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Fever, Vomiting, Cramps, Chills, Stomach Pain See Less

June 21 around 9 PM I stopped at this place to go on bite and realize that the burger was cold when I looked at it saw that it was raw and give it back to him got my money back and I’ve been sick ever since.... See More My doctor diagnosed me. Sorry AutoCorrect wasn’t working. I took a bite of that hamburger and gave it back to him. It was raw meat! The morning of the 22nd I woke up having to go to the bathroom. The next day it happened again 6 AM. The next day I wasn’t able to eat so I was doing nothing but water. Friday I was in pain from head to foot. Couldn’t eat anything without running to the bathroom. I suffered through this all weekend until my doctor could get a stool sample. The stool sample came back positive for E. coli the strain is called Campylobacter. She put me on antibiotics. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Body Ache See Less

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