Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases: Campylobacter enteritis
Campylobacter jejuni. Other Campylobacter organisms include C. coli, C. fetus and C. lari.
The majority of human illness is caused by Campylobacter jejuni.
Common Clinical Features
- Mild to severe diarrhoea (frequently with bloody stools).
- Abdominal pain, cramping, fever, headache, nausea and/or vomiting.
- Infection with campylobacter can cause serious illness among the immuno-compromised.
- Illness typically lasts about 1 week in healthy persons.
- Most infections are self limiting and are not treated with antibiotics. However, treatment with erythromycin reduces the length of time that infected individuals shed the bacteria in their faeces.
- Campylobacter is a major cause of diarrhoeal disease in humans.
- Infection with campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial infectious intestinal disease in England and Wales, with approximately 50,000 cases reported each year.
- However, estimates suggest that for each reported case, 8 more cases are thought to go unreported1.
- In temperate zones, including England and Wales infection with Campylobacter occurs more frequently during the early spring and summer.
- Laboratory confirmed cases in England and Wales have been shown to be high among children 2.
- Campylobacter is a common cause of traveller's diarrhoea and is hyper-endemic in developing countries.
Animals; Poultry, cattle, pigs, sheep and shellfish. Most raw poultry meat is contaminated with C. jejuni.
Mode of Transmission:
- Ingestion of infected undercooked meats and meat products, especially poultry.
- Ingestion of unpasteurized or contaminated milk, contaminated ice and water.
- While person to person spread occurs, most cases are thought to be single,-sporadic cases.
- In the UK approximately 5% of cases are thought to occur through contact with infected pets2.
Commonly 2-5 days with a range of 1-10 days.
Period of Communicability
Throughout period of infection, usually several days to weeks.
Prevention and Control
- Notify - In the UK Campylobacter infection is notifiable as 'suspected food poisoning', of which it is the most commonly reported cause2.
- Follow correct food hygiene practices for food preparation and cooking in domestic and commercial kitchens as described by the WHO five keys to safer food3.
- Prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked food by washing hands before, during and after food preparation.
- Wash and sanitize all equipment, surfaces and utensils used for food preparation.
- Separate raw and cooked food, and use separate equipment and utensils for handling raw food.
- Cook food thoroughly (until centre of food reaches at least 70oC), especially poultry, meat, eggs and seafood.
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly, and store cooked and raw food at a safe temperature.
- Use safe water and raw materials, e.g. pasteurized milk and water.
- Wash fruit and vegetables.
- Gillespie IA, O'Brien SJ, Frost JA, Adak GK, Horby P, Swan AV, et al. A case-case comparison of Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter jejuni infection: a tool for generating hypotheses. Emerg Infect Dis [serial online] 2002 Sep [date cited];8. Available from: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol8no9/01-0187.htm
- Hawker J, Begg N, Blair I, Reintjes R, Weinberg J. Communicable Disease Control Handbook, Blackwell, 2005.
- World Health Organization: 5 Keys to Safer Food. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/consumer/5keys/en/
© CM Kirwan 2006