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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Campylobacter

Campylobacter (or Campylobacteriosis) is an infectious disease caused by the Campylobacter bacteria (germ).

The Campylobacter bacteria lives in the gut of warm-blooded animals such as cattle and sheep. It's particularly common in birds and poultry.

The bacteria are passed on in faeces (poo).

Eating contaminated food, especially undercooked meat, is the commonest way of getting infected. You can also get infected from drinking contaminated water or milk and from contact with infected animals.

Travelling in developing countries where food hygiene is less strict puts you more at risk of infection. You're also more at risk if you work with animals or in the meat industry.

You usually get Campylobacter symptoms two to six days after being infected. Symptoms can last up to 10 days.

The most common symptoms are stomach pain and diarrhoea, which is sometimes bloody. You may have flu-like symptoms.

Campylobacter symptoms are generally mild. But they can be more serious in young children, older people and people with poor immune systems.

Avoiding Campylobacter

The best ways to avoid getting Campylobacter are to practise good hand hygiene and follow food safety advice.

Diagnosing Campylobacter

If you think you have Campylobacter, you should visit your GP for testing and assessment. Your GP may arrange for a sample of your faeces to be tested.

If the tests find the Campylobacter infection, your GP will report this to the local public health team. They may contact you for more information. This is to help stop the infection spreading further.

Treating Campylobacter

There is no specific treatment for Campylobacter. It will usually get better without antibiotics.

It's important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. See the self-care section on the gastroenteritis page for more details.

Getting help with Campylobacter

You should go back to your GP if your symptoms get worse or if they have not gone away after 10 days. You should take your child to your GP if they aren't drinking, are passing less urine than usual, have a dry mouth or sunken eyes, or if they seem drowsy.

Avoiding spreading Campylobacter

You can be infectious for two to seven weeks from the start of your illness. To reduce the risk of spreading the infection, it's important to have good hand hygiene. This includes washing your hands with soap and water.

Try to avoid preparing food if you have Campylobacter. If you do prepare food, make sure you wash and dry your hands well first. Follow this food safety advice.

Stay away from work, community gatherings and school or preschool until you or your child have been free of symptoms for 24 to 48 hours. This includes the last time you had diarrhoea.

You should wait for at least two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea before you go swimming in a pool.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.

Sources

See also:

Diarrhoea & vomiting in adults (gastroenteritis)

Diarrhoea & vomiting in children (gastroenteritis)

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

Page reference: 49671

Review key: HIGTE-81185