What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is a bacterium that causes the infectious disease Campylobacteriosis. This infection causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and cramping. It is usually passed through contaminated food and water. It typically affects people with lower immune systems--the very young or the elderly. Campylobacteriosis is one of the leading causes of food-borne illnesses and diarrhea. If the bacterium travels to the bloodstream, it can become life threatening.

What causes Campylobacter infection?

Campylobacter is a bacterium found in the intestines of animals. It is mainly found in chickens, cattle, and household animals such as cats and dogs. It is passed through the feces. Animals or humans can become infected through contact with the feces.

When an infected animal is slaughtered, it can carry Campylobacter bacterium. If the meat of the infected animal (especially chicken) is not all the way cooked, it can infect the person who eats it.

Coming into contact with a person’s infected feces, especially those of children in diapers, can lead to infection. Contact with the feces of household animals, like cats and dogs, may also result in an infection.

It also is possible that water sources and unpasteurized milk can become contaminated by the bacterium and cause Campylobacter infection.

What are the symptoms of Campylobacter infection?

Symptoms of a Campylobacter infection usually appear 1 to 7 days after contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include:

Symptoms can last for about a week. In some people, there are no signs of symptoms at all.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/20/2013.


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