What is Campylobacter infection?
Campylobacter infection, or campylobacteriosis, is an infectious disease caused by Campylobacter bacteria. It affects the stomach and intestines and is one of the most common diarrheal illnesses in the United States.  

How common is Campylobacter infection? 
CDC estimates Campylobacter infection affects more than 1.3 million people in the US every year.  Most case are not part of recognized outbreaks and more cases occur in summer than in winter.

What are the symptoms of Campylobacter?
Symptoms include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and abdominal cramps.  The diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually begin 2-5 days after ingesting the Campylobacter bacteria and typically last one week.

Raw Chicken
How is Campylobacter spread?
The bacteria can be ingested from contaminated hands, objects, food and water.  People who become infected with Campylobacter will have the bacteria in their feces (stool). If people do not properly wash their hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, and then handle food that others will eat or objects that others will put in their mouths (e.g., toys), they can spread the bacteria to other people. Other common sources of Campylobacter include:

  • Raw or undercooked meat (especially poultry)
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Pets, mainly puppies and kittens, can be infected and can spread the bacteria to you through feces
  • Other animals such as cattle and chickens can also carry Campylobacter

When to call your healthcare provider
Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that has lasted for over 3 days, or if you have a high fever, have blood in your stool, or if you are becoming dehydrated from having diarrhea and/or vomiting.

How is Campylobacter diagnosed?
Campylobacter infection is usually diagnosed when a laboratory test detects Campylobacter in a stool sample.

How is Campylobacter infection treated?
Most people with Campylobacter infection recover without specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as diarrhea lasts. Antibiotics may be needed for patients who are very ill or at high risk for severe disease, such as people with severely weakened immune systems.

How do I avoid Campylobacter infection?

  • Take care when handling raw poultry and meats, and be sure to WASH YOUR HANDS afterwards. Wash cutting boards, counter tops, and cooking utensils thoroughly in order to clean up raw poultry and meat juices before preparing other food items.
  • Cook meats thoroughly
  • Do not consume unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized dairy products
  • Wash hands after changing diapers
  • Wash hands after changing a litter box or after close contact with animals

Is there anything special I need to know?

  • Wash your hands after you use the bathroom
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill
  • Food handlers must be excluded from work until at least 24 hours after diarrhea has resolved and adequate hygiene can be maintained.
  • Childcare workers - Children and staff members with campylobacteriosis who have diarrhea should be excluded until at least 24 hours after diarrhea has resolved. Parents of cases should be counseled not to take their children to another childcare center during this period of exclusion.  Meticulous hand washing should be done after diaper changes and toileting children.

Why does public health investigate Campylobacter cases?

  • It is the responsibility of the local health department to investigate Campylobacter cases reported in the community.  
  • Most people infected with Campylobacter are single, sporadic cases. However, sometimes there are outbreaks when two or more people become ill from the same source.