What are Campylobacter Symptoms?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 January 2019
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Campylobacter or more appropriately campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection caused by ingestion of the campylobacter bacteria. This can occur in a variety of settings. It’s sometimes called traveler’s diarrhea (though this name may be applied to several bacterial infections), but it can just as easily happen at home. It’s most associated with eating raw poultry, drinking raw milk or contaminated water, and coming into contact with the feces of animals (without washing the hands). Campylobacter symptoms tend to be similar to many stomach flus and other food poisoning infections.

For most people campylobacter symptoms will begin just a few days after exposure, and they’re likely to last for anywhere from two days to a full week, though some people may be ill for a couple of weeks. People may have a fever and usually have very strong stomach pains or cramping. Most often, watery diarrhea that may have blood in it occurs for several days. This explosive diarrhea is uncomfortable and can risk severe dehydration if a person doesn’t continue to drink fluids. In some people this risk is increased because they also experience vomiting.

In the majority of cases the campylobacter symptoms mentioned above are the only ones. They resolve without much treatment except rest and fluids. Most people don’t even realize they have a bacterial infection and instead chalk up their illness to “stomach flu.” In some instances, however, campylobacter symptoms can worsen and create very difficult complications.


Extended campylobacter symptoms or complications of the infection could include developing Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can result in paralysis. This only occurs in 0.1% of people who have been infected, but it is still one of the complications worthy of notice. Another complication associated with this illness is development of arthritis. Again this is rare, and most people will not develop it.

Campylobacter symptoms are in the main miserable and if the condition goes on for several weeks, it can create risk for dehydration. Any type of food poisoning is most dangerous to the medically vulnerable. This would include the very young and the very old, and anyone who suffers from a chronic illness.

The best way to keep safe in regard to this bacterium is to never get it in the mouth. This means making sure that any water sources are free from contamination (drinking bottled water in developing countries), making sure to cook poultry thoroughly to the recommended temperature, avoiding using the same cutting board for veggies that is used for meat, and not drinking raw milk. Good handwashing practices are also recommended especially in any location where a person might be exposed to animal feces.



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