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What is campylobacter enteritis?

Campylobacter enteritis is an infection caused by a group of bacteria, called Campylobacter.  These germs live mostly in the intestines of animals, including poultry, cattle, rodents, and household pets.

person holding stomach from abdominal pain

What are symptoms of campylobacter enteritis?

  • Diarrhea (loose poop) that can be bloody
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Malaise (feeling unwell)

It usually takes 2 to 5 days after contact with the germ for you to feel sick.  Symptoms may last for 1 to 10 days, and can vary from mild to severe.  Some people may not show symptoms at all.

How does campylobacter enteritis spread?

Campylobacter is mostly spread from animal to person through the “fecal-oral route”.  This means it spreads from their poop to your mouth by:

  • Drinking and eating water and food that has been infected by the bacteria; or
  • Touching infected pets and animals and their feces (poop) and then touching your mouth. 

How long is it contagious?

A person can pass the infection to others as long as the germ is present in their feces (poop).  This can be for several days to several weeks.

How is campylobacter enteritis treated?

If you or your child develops these symptoms, see your health care provider.  Treatment may include supportive care for symptoms.  Drinking plenty fluids to stay hydrated is important to getting better.  In more severe cases, your health care provider might prescribe medications. 
Depending on your type of job, you may be advised to stay home to minimize the spread of infection, especially those who work with food, water, and children or are health care providers.

How is campylobacter enteritis prevented?

mother washing hands with kids at the dinning table

Ways to prevent infection include:

  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially before and after preparing foods, before eating, and after handling diapers and using the washroom.  This is the best way to prevent infection.
  • Wash your hands after touching pets, animals and handling pet food.
  • Practice safe food handling, including washing all uncooked fruits and vegetables in clean water, and storing and cooking your food properly.  Try to use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked meats.  Avoid preparing food if you are sick. 
  • When traveling on vacation, be aware of food preparation and handling in high risk countries.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water.  Drink only pasteurized (treated) milk and milk products. Be careful not to swallow water when swimming in lakes or ponds.

References:
Heymann, D.L. (Ed.). (2015). Control of communicable diseases manual (20th ed.). Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
Ontario. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2014). Infectious diseases protocol, Appendix A: Disease-specific chapters, Chapter: Campylobacter enteritis. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2013). Campylobacter. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/campylo-eng.php.
World Health Organization. (2016). Campylobacter. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs255/en/.