Campylobacter: The Foodborne Illness You Never Heard Of (And Hope You’ll Never Get)
Campylobacter: The Foodborne Illness You Never Heard Of (And Hope You’ll Never Get) By Sandra D. Lane for The Organic Prepper
In our ongoing series on foodborne illnesses, we continue with the third most common – Campylobacter. This infection isn’t as heard of as the others, primarily because nowadays, in first world countries. we cook or heat the food enough to kill it, and it isn’t contagious.
The most commonly contaminated foods are raw poultry, fresh produce, and unpasteurized milk. It is a very fragile bacteria, and yet it’s considered to be one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States, and the most common bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Sometimes people infected with Campylobacter have symptoms, sometimes they don’t.
Campylobacter has symptoms, of course, but it’s important to note that many who are infected never display symptoms at all and therefore don’t feel/get sick. Fortunately, campylobacter is rarely transmitted from person to person but rather received from raw poultry, eggs, unpasteurized milk, water tainted with the bacteria, and crops irrigated with the tainted water.
The symptoms of Campylobacter infection are usually diarrhea (sometimes bloody), a fever, and abdominal cramps, and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. As mentioned, some people exhibit no symptoms at all. However, for people with weakened immune systems, or people receiving some types of chemotherapy, Campylobacter can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection. For such a quiet bacteria, it can and sometimes does, cause a big deal.
How is Campylobacter transmitted?
But most Campylobacter infections are picked up by eating raw or undercooked poultry, or from contamination of other foods by these items. For example, if a cutting board is used to cut up raw chicken, then isn’t washed before using it to slice up fruits or salad ingredients, a person can get infected.
A person can also get the infection from the feces of a dog or cat by not washing their hands well enough after cleaning litter boxes, but it does not typically spread from one person to another. There is, however, a very rare chance that a person can receive a Campylobacter infection from contaminated blood through a transfusion.
Here’s how Campylobacter infections are diagnosed and treated.
Once more we see symptoms that are quite similar to other illnesses, so how do we know if we have a Campylobacter infection; how does our doctor know? Once it’s ruled out that there’s been no ingestion of raw poultry, unpasteurized milk, or a possible drink of water from a place that’s not recommended, the doctor can perform some tests to see if there’s an infection. Those tests will most likely consist of a Complete Blood Count (CBC) with differential (which, for us laymen just means more details), and then the dreaded stool sample in order to test for white blood cells and to do a culture. Again, though, just like with salmonella, the infected person will most likely be feeling much better and free of the infection long before the culture comes back.
The treatment for Campylobacter infections is plenty of clear liquids, and, unless the person has diabetes, those liquids should contain both salt and sugar if possible. Gatorade might be a good example (just not red Gatorade). With diabetes, there should obviously be no sugar. It’s also recommended that a person drink at least 1 cup of liquid each time they have a bowel movement and that as they get to feeling better, they begin eating very small meals.