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Campylobacter infection

Food poisoning - campylobacter enteritis; Infectious diarrhea - campylobacter enteritis; Bacterial diarrhea; Campy; Gastroenteritis - campylobacter; Colitis - campylobacter

Campylobacter infection occurs in the small intestine from bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni. It is a type of food poisoning.

Causes

Campylobacter enteritis is a common cause of intestinal infection. These bacteria are also one of the many causes of traveler's diarrhea or food poisoning.

People most often get infected by eating or drinking food or water that contains the bacteria. The most commonly contaminated foods are raw poultry, fresh produce, and unpasteurized milk.

A person can also be infected by close contact with infected people or animals.

Symptoms

Symptoms start 2 to 4 days after being exposed to the bacteria. They often last a week, and may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. These tests may be done:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential
  • Stool sample testing for white blood cells
  • Stool culture for Campylobacter jejuni

Treatment

The infection almost always goes away on its own, and often does not need to be treated with antibiotics. Severe symptoms may improve with antibiotics.

The goal is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration. Dehydration is a loss of water and other fluids in the body.

These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. For people who do not have diabetes, fluids should contain salts and simple sugars. For those with diabetes, sugar-free fluids should be used.
  • Drink at least 1 cup (240 milliliters) of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day instead of 3 big meals.
  • Eat some salty foods, such as pretzels, soup, and sports drinks. (If you have kidney disease, check with your doctor before increasing your intake of these foods).
  • Eat some high-potassium foods, such as bananas, potatoes without the skin, and watered-down fruit juices. (If you have kidney disease, check with your doctor before increasing your intake of these foods).

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people recover in 5 to 8 days.

When a person's immune system does not work well, the Campylobacter infection may spread to the heart or brain.

Other problems that may occur are:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

  • You have diarrhea that continues for more than 1 week or it comes back.
  • There is blood in your stools.
  • You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting.
  • You have a fever above 101°F (38.3°C), and diarrhea.
  • You have signs of dehydration (thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness)
  • You have recently traveled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea.
  • Your diarrhea does not get better in 5 days, or it gets worse.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

Call your provider if your child has:

  • A fever above 100.4°F (37.7°C) and diarrhea
  • Diarrhea that does not get better in 2 days, or it gets worse
  • Been vomiting for more than 12 hours (in a newborn under 3 months you should call as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begins)
  • Reduced urine output, sunken eyes, sticky or dry mouth, or no tears when crying

Prevention

Learning how to prevent food poisoning can reduce the risk for this infection.

References

Allos BM. Campylobacter infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 287.

Allos BM, Blaser MJ, Iovine NM, Kirkpatrick BD. Campylobacter jejuni and related species. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 216.

Endtz HP. Campylobacter infections. In: Ryan ET, Hill DR, Solomon T, Aaronson NE, Endy TP. eds. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases. 10th ed., Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020: chap 50.

    • Food poisoning

      Animation

    •  

      Food poisoning - Animation

      If you have stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, or nausea a few hours after eating something, chances are you may have food poisoning. Let's talk about food poisoning. Food poisoning happens when you eat food or drink water that's been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases of food poisoning are due to common bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or E. coli. Bacteria may get into your food in different ways. Meat or poultry may come into contact with intestinal bacteria when it gets processed. Water that's used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste. Food poisoning may also occur when people handle your food without washing their hands properly, when food is prepared using unclean cooking utensils or cutting boards, when perishable foods are left out of the refrigerator for too long, and when people eat raw foods like fish or oysters or undercooked meats or eggs. Untreated water can also cause food poisoning. So, what do you do about food poisoning? Well, fortunately, you'll usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 to 48 hours. Your goal should be to make sure that your body gets enough fluids so that you don't become dehydrated. Don't eat solid foods until diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy products. Drink any fluid (except milk and caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids in your body. If you have eaten toxins from mushrooms or shellfish, seek medical attention right away. The emergency room doctor will then empty out your stomach and remove the toxin. Most people will recover from the most common types of food poisoning pretty quickly. However, if food poisoning leads to dehydration because you can't keep anything down, you should seek immediate medical attention.

    • Campylobacter jejuni organism

      Campylobacter jejuni organism - illustration

      Campylobacter jejuni infection causes cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever within 2 to 5 days after a person has been exposed to the organism. Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrhea. Most cases of Campylobacter jejuni come from handling or ingesting raw or undercooked poultry meat. Although poultry and other birds are not affected by the bacterium, other animals can be. Therefore it is possible for a person to acquire the infection from contact with infected stool of an ill cat or dog. This is what Campylobacter organisms look like through a microscope. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Campylobacter jejuni organism

      illustration

    • Digestive system

      Digestive system - illustration

      The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

      Digestive system

      illustration

    • Digestive system organs

      Digestive system organs - illustration

      The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

      Digestive system organs

      illustration

    • Food poisoning

      Animation

    •  

      Food poisoning - Animation

      If you have stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, or nausea a few hours after eating something, chances are you may have food poisoning. Let's talk about food poisoning. Food poisoning happens when you eat food or drink water that's been contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases of food poisoning are due to common bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or E. coli. Bacteria may get into your food in different ways. Meat or poultry may come into contact with intestinal bacteria when it gets processed. Water that's used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste. Food poisoning may also occur when people handle your food without washing their hands properly, when food is prepared using unclean cooking utensils or cutting boards, when perishable foods are left out of the refrigerator for too long, and when people eat raw foods like fish or oysters or undercooked meats or eggs. Untreated water can also cause food poisoning. So, what do you do about food poisoning? Well, fortunately, you'll usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 to 48 hours. Your goal should be to make sure that your body gets enough fluids so that you don't become dehydrated. Don't eat solid foods until diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy products. Drink any fluid (except milk and caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids in your body. If you have eaten toxins from mushrooms or shellfish, seek medical attention right away. The emergency room doctor will then empty out your stomach and remove the toxin. Most people will recover from the most common types of food poisoning pretty quickly. However, if food poisoning leads to dehydration because you can't keep anything down, you should seek immediate medical attention.

    • Campylobacter jejuni organism

      Campylobacter jejuni organism - illustration

      Campylobacter jejuni infection causes cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever within 2 to 5 days after a person has been exposed to the organism. Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrhea. Most cases of Campylobacter jejuni come from handling or ingesting raw or undercooked poultry meat. Although poultry and other birds are not affected by the bacterium, other animals can be. Therefore it is possible for a person to acquire the infection from contact with infected stool of an ill cat or dog. This is what Campylobacter organisms look like through a microscope. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Campylobacter jejuni organism

      illustration

    • Digestive system

      Digestive system - illustration

      The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

      Digestive system

      illustration

    • Digestive system organs

      Digestive system organs - illustration

      The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

      Digestive system organs

      illustration

    Tests for Campylobacter infection

     

    Review Date: 3/4/2020

    Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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