What is campylobacteriosis?

Campylobacteriosis (also known as Campylobacter enteritis) is an intestinal infection caused by a bacteria called Campylobacter. It is a common cause of diarrheal illness in Canada, most often related to consuming contaminated foods. Campylobacter bacteria are normally found in the intestines of animals, including poultry, wild birds, swine, cattle, rodents, household pets and sometimes shellfish.

How is campylobacteriosis spread?

People become infected with Campylobacter when they consume food or water that is contaminated with the bacteria. Common sources of infection are from eating raw or undercooked poultry or meats, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and contaminated fruits or vegetables. Contact with the feces (stool) of an ill cat or dog can also be a source of infection, especially puppies and kittens who have diarrhea. Campylobacter is usually not spread from one person to another.   

What are the symptoms of campylobacteriosis?

In most cases, symptoms start 2 to 5 days after contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhea (may be bloody or contain mucous), stomach pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. Severe symptoms are more likely to occur in people with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Although uncommon, reactive arthritis (sore joints) and a very rare nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, can occur a few weeks after recovery.

Is there treatment for campylobacteriosis?

In general, the only treatment required is rest, and fluids to replace what has been lost through diarrhea. Most people recover in a few days without treatment. People with severe symptoms, or symptoms that last a long time, should seek care from their health care provider. 

Are there any restrictions or special considerations for people ill with campylobacteriosis?

People can spread the infection while they are ill and up to several weeks afterwards, but, generally, people can return to work and school when they feel better and no longer have symptoms. People whose work involves preparing or handling food, people who provide child care or health care, and children who attend daycare, should remain at home until the diarrhea has stopped for at least 24 hours.

How can I protect myself against campylobacteriosis?

To prevent becoming ill with campylobacteriosis:

  • 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, and sanitize utensils, cutting boards and surfaces that may have been contaminated with raw meat or poultry
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with clean, running water before eating
  • Store raw meats, poultry and fish away from ready to eat foods
  • Ensure good hand washing 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
  • Avoid food preparation or serving food or drinks for others if you have diarrhea
  • Test well water for bacteria 3 times a year; the testing is free for Ottawa residents through Ottawa Public Health
  • Avoid swallowing recreational water (in lakes, rivers, pools, etc.) while swimming
  • Avoid local water when travelling to countries where the water supply is uncertain; 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 (OPH) role?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) must be notified by health care providers and laboratories when a person is infected with Campylobacter. OPH conducts an investigation to potentially determine the cause or source of the infection, provide education to the infected person and their close contacts, and follows up with the infected person's health care provider, as needed.

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