Campylobacteriosis is a diarrheal illness caused by bacteria of the genus Campylobacter, which live harmlessly in most warm-blooded animals and grow best in the intestines of birds. The bacteria can be easily spread from animal to human through contaminated feces or meat. It is one of the most common gastrointestinal illnesses in the world. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are not reported, but it is estimated that a little more than one million people are infected yearly. The disease is rarely fatal. Deaths caused by the disease are usually confined to very young or old patients or those with weakened immune systems (e.g., AIDS patients).
Symptoms usually occur between 2 and 5 days after a patient is infected and include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, fever, and headache. Sometimes the diarrhea becomes bloody. Symptoms usually last about 1 week. Complications of the infection are rare but they do occur. Bacteremia, hepatitis, arthritis, pancreatitis, and some neurological disorders have been reported to develop during or after a Campylobacter infection. Campylobacter infections can occasionally lead to death but usually only in patients with compromised immune systems due to age or other diseases.
Most patients recover from campylobacteriosis without taking medications. The most important treatment is the replacement of water and salts lost through diarrhea. Therefore, patients should drink a lot of water throughout the duration of their illness. Antibiotics can be used to treat severe cases but are usually not necessary.
Because Campylobacter can spread from animal feces or meat to humans, infections are most easily prevented by practicing safe food preparation methods. You should always wash your hands before and after preparing food and clean kitchen utensils after use with raw meats to avoid cross contamination. Meat, especially poultry products, should be well cooked before eating, and only pasteurized milk should be consumed.