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Campylobacter

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WHAT IS IT?

Abstract

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.

 

 

TRANSMISSION
- 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.

 

 

SYMPTOMS
- Profuse diarrhoea, which may contain blood.

 

 

- Abdominal pain and cramps.

 

 

- Fever.

 

 

- Nausea and vomiting.

 

 

DIAGNOSIS
- 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).

 

 

COMPLICATIONS
- 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).

 

 

PREVENTION
- 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.

 

 

TREATMENT
- 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.

 

 

WEBSITES
Food Standards Agency: www.foodstandards.gov.uk

 

 

Health Protection Agency: www.hpa.org.uk

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