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Campylobacter and the Signs and Symptoms

Updated on February 23, 2010

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.


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    • profile image

      Rebecca 5 years ago

      I was diagnosed with this the other day. Its terrible. I am back at work now after a week off with fevers and massive cramping of the legs and back - at one stage i could not walk or drive. I am feeling better but still feel nauseous every day, all day, and of course, still have stomach pain and diarrhea... its terrible. I feel sorry for those who suffer from IBS or like-illnesses as you cant eat anything right...

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

      Scary! I don't think I have ever heard of this before but it's good to be in the know! Thanks, Jennifer!

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Interesting Hub. Thanks.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Wow, never heard of this either. Thank you for explaining campylobacter to me. You are right, you can't be too careful these days.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you for such a well-written article on this problem that is so widespread.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      The article is supplying good information no doubt and hence necessary precaution is worthy to take up in time but every body is different in its constituents in the nature of chromosome and genes in the building of DNA and RNA. It is better to be consulted immediately to a medical person in the face of attacking symptoms.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      very good and interesting information..... makes me remember to be scrupulous about cleaning cutting boards and knives

    • entertianmentplus profile image

      entertianmentplus 8 years ago from United States

      Good info Thanks

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a great hub and great warning.

    • PaulaK profile image

      Paula Kirchner 8 years ago from Austin. Texas

      Good information to know! Thank you for putting it out there!

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 8 years ago

      Like you I speak with the experience of having had Campylobacter -it put me in hospital because I also suffer with adrenal insufficency. Fortunately I was the only one in the family to suffer and I didn't manage to work out where I had picked it up from.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 8 years ago

      I had no idea what this was going to be about. Very informative and good to know.