What is campylobacteriosis?

Campylobacteriosis (also known as Campylobacter) is an intestinal (bowel) infection caused by a type of bacteria. It is a very common cause of food borne illness in Canada. These bacteria often live in the intestines of animals, such as:

  • Chicken, turkey, and wild birds
  • Pigs
  • Cattle
  • Rodents
  • Household pets
  • Shellfish (like shrimp)
How is campylobacteriosis spread?

Campylobacter is not usually spread from one person to another. You can become sick with campylobacter if you eat food or drink water that contains the bacteria. This can happen by:

  • Eating raw or undercooked poultry or meat
  • Drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk
  • Eating fruit or vegetables that have the bacteria on the surface.

It is also possible to get sick with campylobacter if you have contact with the stool of sick dogs or cats. Puppies or kittens with diarrhea may also pass campylobacter to people.

What are the symptoms of campylobacteriosis?

In most cases, symptoms start two to five days after contact with the bacteria. Symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea (may be bloody or contain mucous)
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

Anyone with a weakened immune system has a greater chance of severe symptoms. This includes:

  • Young children
  • Pregnant people
  • Seniors
How is campylobacter treated?

Most people get better in a few days without treatment. It is important to rest, and drink plenty of fluids to replace fluids lost from diarrhea. See your health care provider if your symptoms are severe or not improving.

Do I have to stay home from work or school if I have campylobacter?

People can spread campylobacter bacteria to others while they are sick and up to several weeks afterwards. Most people can return to work and school when they feel better and no longer have symptoms.
Stay home until your diarrhea has stopped for at least 24 hours (48 hours if you took medication to stop diarrhea) if you:

  • Handle or prepare food for others
  • Are a childcare or health care worker
  • Attend daycare
How can I prevent campylobacter?

To prevent getting sick with campylobacter:

  • Do not eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or dairy products
  • Cook poultry pieces and meats to 74°C (165°F); cook whole poultry to 82°C (180°F)
  • Clean counters where food is prepared with warm soapy water
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards and surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat or poultry with warm soapy water, or run them through a dishwasher
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with clean, running water before eating
  • Store raw meats, poultry, and fish away from ready to eat foods
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and anytime hands may be dirty
  • If you have diarrhea, do not prepare or serve food/drinks for others
  • Test well water for bacteria three times a year; the testing is free for Ottawa residents through Ottawa Public Health
  • Do not swallow water while swimming
  • Do not drink local water when travelling to countries where the water supply is uncertain. Instead, use only sealed bottled water or treated (chemically disinfected or boiled) water for drinking, brushing teeth, preparing foods, making ice and cooking.
What is Ottawa Public Health's role?

Labs and health care providers must report all cases of campylobacter to Ottawa Public Health. Ottawa Public Health investigates all cases to find a source of illness and provide education. Ottawa Public Health will investigate further if we find a common source of illness.

To learn more about food safety and travel related illness:

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