Campylobacter Infection

Campylobacter is a bacteria that commonly causes a diarrheal illness, but can cause an illness that mimic appendicitis.  It can spread via the blood stream to involve heart valves or central nervous system.

After an acute infection one may develop inflammatory conditions of arthritis or guillan-barre syndrome. The bacteria that cause infections are campylobacter jejunii, coli and fetus.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide but the illness is more common in developing countries.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by eating undercooked meat, drinking contaminated water or unpasteurized milk.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is rarely contagious, cases have been reported in caregivers of sick individuals who may not have washed their hands.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is moderate to high in travelers to developing countries who are adventurous eaters.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms are seen anywhere from 2-5 days after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms are usually abdominal pain, fever and loose watery to bloody stools that last 5-7 days. Rarely one may only have fever and pain in the lower abdomen mimicking appendicitis.

When the infection spreads through the blood stream it can settle on the heart valves causing endocarditis with symptoms of fever, weight loss, fatigue, sweats etc. Meningitis can present with headaches, nausea and seizures.

After recovery from above infections, a small percentage can develop inflammatory conditions like arthritis of the hips, knees or low back; and a neurologic condition called guillan-barre syndrome characterized by ascending numbness, weakness and paralysis of muscles.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Diagnosis is made by culturing the bacteria from stool or other body fluids.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like azithromycin and those of the quinolone family like ciprofloxacin, moxifloxacin and levofloxacin are effective.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Practice food safety and water safety precautions.

advice for your illness and travel
learn about an exotic disease