Campylobacter and the Signs and Symptoms
Campylobacter is the most common cause of diarrhea in the United States, yet most people don't realize that they have it. In fact many people are infected each year and show no signs of it. One of the reasons for this (I think) is that so many chickens are infected with Campylobacter that our bodies have probably developed a resistance to this horrible food borne illness. A 2005 study done by the FDA found Campylobacter to be on 47% of all raw chicken breasts. In the book Real Food by Nina Planck, she sites on page 98 a study done also in 2005 that showed 96% of all Tyson chickens carried a drug resistant form of Campylobacter. It is extremely common.
When I say it is horrible, I unfortunately speak from experience. Campylobacter can cause cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, fever (usually around 102), headache and chills. The symptoms usually only last a couple of days, but can linger for up to a week to 10 days. Rarely does a person need antibiotics, but sometimes the symptoms are so severe that they are required. As is common for me, I had it bad. I don't get sick often, but when I do it is usually very severe. After five days I was finally able to get antibiotics, but it was a couple of weeks and two rounds of medicine before I was fully recovered.
As I mentioned before, Campylobacter is transmitted through poultry most of the time. This is one of the reasons you hear all the precautions for handling raw meat. Even one drop of contaminated raw chicken juice can cause severe illness. In my case, it wasn't anything I did handling raw chicken. I had bought a rotisserie chicken from the store and it wasn't cooked thoroughly. I have some friends that got Campylobacter when the vegetables they had eaten were contaminated by a dirty cutting board in a restaurant. You just can't be too careful, but unfortunately not all companies or restaurants are careful enough. Campylobacter is also transmitted through contaminated water as well as unpasteurized milk. You can also get Campylobacter from an infected cat or dog, so be very careful when handling your pet's stools.
If you have a confirmed case of Campylobacter your state health department will get involved and try their best to figure out where the infection came from. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) track this illness. Campylobacter typically shows its first signs and symptoms around the 48 hour mark, but symptoms can show up five days later even. Because of this lag time, it can be hard to trace the source.
If you have a sudden bout of diarrhea, cramping and fever that doesn't go away on its own within a couple of days, contact your doctor. They can confirm Campylobacter through a stool test and prescribe antibiotics if your body isn't getting rid of the infection on its own. Campylobacter can be serious and even (rarely) causes death. While common, Campylobacter is a horrible illness that I wish no one would have to go through. Take the proper precautions and hopefully you will never encounter this sickness.