Public Health Agency of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Notifiable Diseases On-Line

CAMPYLOBACTERIOSIS

Campylobacteriosis is an acute bacterial disease which attacks the digestive system. A person becomes infected by eating contaminated food, or drinking contaminated water or raw milk. Infection may also be contracted from close contact with infected puppies and kittens, farm animals or infected infants. The illness is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal pain, malaise, fever, nausea and vomiting.

AGENT OF DISEASE

Campylobacteriosis is caused by the bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms usually occur 2-5 days after initial exposure, but can occur up to a month later, and are characterized by diarrhea, abdominal pain, malaise, fever, nausea and vomiting. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Relapses can occur. Blood and mucus may be present in liquid stools. Complications include typhoid-like syndrome, arthritis, febrile convulsions, meningitis (the bacteria infects the membrane which lines the surface of the brain) and Guillaume-Barré syndrome (an illness which causes progressive weakness and paralysis; recovery is often slow and the condition may lead to death in some cases).

PERIOD OF COMMUNICABILITY

An infected person can pass the infection on throughout the illness, which usually lasts from several days to several weeks.

HOW IT IS TRANSMITTED

A person becomes infected by consuming undercooked meat, particularly poultry, other contaminated food and water, or unpasteurized milk. The bacteria can transfer from a primary source, such as raw poultry, to contaminate other foods or surfaces, including cutting boards, knives, and plates. A person may also become infected from close contact with infected puppies or kittens, farm animals or infected infants.

WORLDWIDE DISTRIBUTION

Globally, 5-14% of reported cases of diarrhea are caused by infection with Campylobacter. In industrialized countries the illness affects predominantly children older than 5 years of age and young adults. In developing countries, the persons most affected are infants and children under 2 years.

PREVENTION/CONTROL

  1. Thoroughly cook all foods derived from animal sources, especially poultry. To prevent cross-contamination, clean and sanitize kitchen surfaces that come in contact with raw meat and separate raw meat from ready-to-eat foods.
  2. Drink and eat pasteurized milk and milk products
  3. Drink water from a safe supply.
  4. Always wash hands, after using the toilet and before preparing and serving food, and after contact with domestic animals.
  5. For Food Safety Facts on Campylobacter go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website.