Bacterial food contamination is a growing problem in this country. Not only can it lead to the uncomfortable symptoms of food poisoning, it can even result in death in rare cases. One of the most common forms of foodborne illness is campylobacter infection. In fact, infection with the Campylobacter bacteria is one of the most frequent causes of foodborne illness related in the U.S. What causes campylobacter infection and how can you protect your family from it?
Campylobacter food poisoning is caused by eating food contaminated with the Campylobacter bacteria. This bacteria is most likely to contaminate poultry products such as chicken and turkey, although beef, pork, and lamb can be a source for this pathogen also. Not only are meat products a source a potential source of infection, eggs and unpasteurized milk can also harbor this common bacteria. It’s estimated that up to twenty-eight percent of raw samples of poultry meat may contain Campylobacter. Campylobacter infection can also be contracted from an infected dog or cat who sheds the bacteria in their feces.
What type of symptoms does Campylobacter infection cause? Within 2 to 7 days of exposure to the bacteria, gastrointestinal symptoms develop. These may include bloody diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. Other symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and headache. Although the symptoms usually subside on their own within ten days, complications can develop including appendicitis, arthritis-like symptoms, and even heart complications. A rare complication is a syndrome known as Guillain-Barre which affects the nervous system and may require hospitalization and assisted ventilation if it involves the nerves that stimulate breathing.
Although antibiotics may shorten the course of Campylobacter infection if given early, most cases will subside without treatment in the absence of complications. The most important precaution is to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Taking medication to stop diarrhea is discouraged since this can prolong the illness.
How can you protect your family from infection with the Campylobacter bacteria? The most important precaution is to cook all meats, particularly poultry, to 190 degrees Farenheit or higher. Keep in mind that organic and free-range poultry products can be a source of Campylobacter, so take suitable precautions. Always clean cutting boards thoroughly after using them to prepare poultry and use a separate cutting board for raw vegetables. Wash your hands thoroughly after working with raw poultry products.
Other ways to avoid Campylobacter infection is to stay away from raw or unpasteurized milk products and avoid contact with pet feces. If exposed, wash your hands thoroughly. Children who spend time at day care centers can also be a source of Campylobacter bacteria. Make sure children wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
Campylobacter infection is one form of food poisoning can be avoided with sound, commonsense food handling practices. Don’t let your family experiences the unpleasant effects of the Campylobacter bacteria.