WHAT IS IT?
VOL: 100, ISSUE: 06, PAGE NO: 30
WHAT IS IT?
- Campylobacter is a genus of spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause disease in humans and animals. The most common cause in people is the species known as Campylobacter jejuni (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003).
- Infection with campylobacter can cause gastrointestinal illness two to five days after exposure to the organism (Association of Medical Microbiologists, 1993).
- C. jejuni is particularly common in the intestinal tracts of chickens, which are the source of most food-related human infection.
- Campylobacter resides in the intestines of wild birds, poultry and other animals.
- Infection usually occurs in single cases, but it can occur in outbreaks.
- Larger outbreaks are usually related to drinking unpasteurised milk or contaminated water.
- Most cases are associated with handling or eating undercooked poultry.
- The organism is not usually spread from person to person, but this can happen if personal hygiene is poor.
- Profuse diarrhoea, which may contain blood.
- Abdominal pain and cramps.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of symptoms and history of consuming likely food sources or coming into contact with infected animals.
- Stool culture may confirm diagnosis, although negative culture does not exclude infection (Tompkins et al, 1999).
- In patients with compromised immune systems, campylobacter may spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection.
- Rarely, the bacterium can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome (CDC, 2003) or reactive conditions such as arthritis, carditis, urticaria, erythema nodosum, conjunctivitis and Reiter’s syndrome (Evidence-Based Medicine Guidelines, 2000).
- Food hygiene is important in preventing campylobacter infections.
- Raw meat and poultry should be kept separate from other foods.
- Poultry should be cooked thoroughly until any juices run clear.
- Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap after handling raw foods of animal origin and before touching anything else.
- Chopping boards used for raw meat should not be used for chopping other foods.
- Chopping boards, countertops and utensils should be cleaned with soap and hot water after preparing raw food of animal origin.
- Consumption of unpasteurised milk and untreated water should be avoided.
- Most patients recover without specific treatment for campylobacter.
- Patients should drink plenty of fluids while they have diarrhoea - rehydration solutions may be helpful.
- Dehydration (loss of more than five per cent of body weight through fluid loss) requires hospital admission.
- In severe cases antibiotics may be used to reduce the duration of the illness.
Food Standards Agency: www.foodstandards.gov.uk
Health Protection Agency: www.hpa.org.uk