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Definition of Campylobacteriosis and Campylobacter jejuni
Campylobacteriosis – an illness that results from infection with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. The bacteria are commonly present in domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys without causing illness in the birds; the typical source of infection in people is undercooked poultry (especially chicken) or cross-contamination that occurs from improper handling and preparation of poultry.
Health experts estimate that half the chickens slaughtered for market in the United States carry Campylobacter jejuni, though proper handling prevents cross-contamination and thorough cooking kills the bacteria so it does not cause infection.
It is not possible to tell whether Campylobacter jejuni contaminates raw chicken; appropriate food safety measures are essential when preparing any poultry or meat. Other animal-based foods may also be the source of Campylobacter jejuni, nobly unpasteurized milk. Campylobacteriosis is one of the most common foodborne illnesses.
Symptoms and Diagnostic Path
Symptoms develop two to five days after consuming contaminated food or water and include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. Some people also have nausea and vomiting. The diarrhea may be slightly bloody.
Many people do not seek medical treatment because the infection is self-limiting and generally runs its course in a few days. The doctor can positively identify Campylobacter jejuni as the culprit through cultures of stool samples, though this is not usually necessary.
Treatment Options and Outlook
Campylobacteriosis is self-limiting, with symptoms ending within five days. Most people who develop campylobacteriosis require only supportive treatment such as increased fluid consumption to prevent dehydration until the diarrhea runs its course.
The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic medication such as erythromycin when symptoms are severe or recur. Rare complications of campylobacteriosis include Guillain-barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes neurologic symptoms, including muscle weakness and paralysis. Though Guillain-Barré syndrome is rare, health experts believe campylobacteriosis triggers about 40 percent of cases.
Risk Factors and Preventive Measures
Proper food handling, thoroughly cooking chicken and other poultry, and drinking pasteurized milk are highly effective measures for preventing campylobacteriosis. Preventive food safety measures include
- wash hands with warm water and soap after handling raw poultry and meat
- use separate utensils, cutting knives, and cutting surfaces for preparing poultry and meats
- wash food preparation surfaces, knives, and utensils with hot water and soap immediately after using them
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