What Is Campylobacter?
Campylobacter is one of the leading causes of food poisoning in the United States. Unlike other foodborne illnesses, Campylobacter is rarely the result of a local, regional, or national outbreak. Most cases are isolated incidents that last anywhere from two to ten days. Campylobacter is a bacteria that causes infectious disease in the intestines, resulting in cramping, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Although it is rare, Campylobacter may spread to the bloodstream, resulting in a serious life-threating situation. If you or a loved one has contracted Campylobacter, seek medical attention immediately. You should also consider speaking with a knowledgeable Campylobacter lawyer who can help you understand what legal options are available to you, if any.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14 out of every 100,000 people in the United States will contract Campylobacter each year. Campylobacteriosis is more common during the summer months, especially among males, infants, and young adults. Since many cases go unreported or undiagnosed, the official estimate shows that Campylobacteriosis infects 1.3 million people every year.
Campylobacter causes disease in both animals and humans. The germ is spiral-shaped and grows best in temperatures between 41 and 42 degrees Celsius – the body temperature of a bird. This is why birds are commonly infected with Campylobacter, though the germ doesn’t affect them as much as it hurts humans. Since the bacteria is fragile and can be killed with oxygen, outbreaks are easily prevented by nature itself.
What Are the Symptoms of Campylobacter?
If you’ve been exposed to the bacteria, symptoms will appear within two to four days and should only last a week. They include cramping, sudden abdominal pain, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Since these symptoms take a toll on the digestive track, it’s common for diarrhea to be bloody. To determine whether Campylobacter is the cause of illness, your physician may order:
- Complete blood count tests with differential results
- Stool culture specifically for Campylobacter jejuni
- Stool sample tests searching for white blood cells
Even if these tests determine that you’ve been infected with Campylobacter, you may not be treated with antibiotics, since it generally disappears on its own. If the symptoms continue to worsen, however, it’s critical to contact your healthcare provider. It is also important to speak with a food poisoning lawyer experienced in the specifics of Campylobacter cases. He or she will be able to help you determine if your case is one worth pursuing.
The primary requirement for anyone with Campylobacter is to stay hydrated, as vomiting and diarrhea will deprive your body of the water, fluids, and electrolytes that it needs not only to recover, but also to survive. Be sure to drink eight to ten glasses of water every 24 hours. Furthermore, consider drinking a glass of water for every bowel movement. Eating a few salty foods and sport drinks will also ensure that your electrolyte levels are where they need to be.
How Can I Avoid Campylobacter?
To prevent Campylobacter infection in your home, follow basic health and food preparation hygiene standards. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cooking poultry thoroughly – since Campylobacter is prevalent in birds, it’s important to ensure that your poultry products are evenly cooked. A minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is high enough to kill the bacteria. Also be conscientious of how well your poultry is cooked when you eat in restaurants.
- Wash your hands – many adults don’t wash their hands as often as they should. Whether you recently used the bathroom or handled raw foods, it’s important to wash with both soap and water. Simply taking a minute to do so will prevent the majority of foodborne illness possibilities.
- Preparing foods separately – if you’re preparing both meats and vegetables for mealtime, it’s important to use separate utensils and cutting boards for different ingredients. This prevents cross-contamination.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as the CDC, are monitoring Campylobacteriosis cases throughout the country. In particular, the USDA is researching methods to prevent and stop the spread among chickens and other birds.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also invested in developing policies to ensure the safety of food and prevent diseases like Campylobacteriosis. Strengthened food safety systems, better manufacturing practices, and an educated public will reduce the number of cases each year.
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