How to Prevent a Campylobacter Infection
Campylobacterinfection (also known as campy) is a form of food poisoning caused by the bacteriaCampylobacter jejuni. Campy is one of the most common causes of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. It causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain that mimics appendicitis, malaise, fever and watery diarrhea (sometimes bloody diarrhea). Almost everyone infected withCampylobacterrecovers without specific treatment. Mild infection lasts one to two days with most patients recovering in one week. However, if left untreated, in some cases -- especially in the bodies of people with compromised immune systems -- campy can be quite serious. Using basic precautions when dealing with food -- washing your hands, cooking meat to an adequate temperature, avoiding unpasteurized milk and untreated water, and washing your dishes adequately -- is the best way to prevent a campy infection.
Using Kitchen Safety Precautions
Wash your hands often.You should wash your hands at least twice when cooking: once before and once after preparing food. Use an antibacterial soap and scrub thoroughly. Lather for at least twenty seconds, and be sure to scrub the backs of your hands and the webbing between your fingers, not just your palms. Rinse your hands and pat dry.
- Be sure to dislodge any grime under your fingernails.
- Make sure that children wash their hands carefully and frequently to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
Cook your meat all the way through.Each kind of meat needs to reach a specific temperature in order to eliminate bacteria that thrive within it. Make sure that the meat is cooked all through. It should not be pink inside, and any juice that comes out should be clear.
- Some standard temperatures you should cook meat to include:
- at least 160°F (71°C) for beef
- at least 165°F (73.8°C) for poultry
- at least 145°F (62.7°C) for fish
Wash all your dishes thoroughly.Dishes -- including plates, cutting boards, pots, and pans -- need to be placed in the sink and scrubbed thoroughly with hot water and antibacterial soap.
- Other surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat like counter tops should also be disinfected with antibacterial soap and wiped down with a damp disposable towel or a disinfectant wipe.
- Use separate cutting boards for meat. Thoroughly clean all cutting boards and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw meats and poultry.
Keep your sponges clean.Sanitize your sponge every other day to prevent campy from getting a foothold in your sponge and sink. Sanitizing your sponge is simple. Just get your sponge damp, then toss it in your microwave for one minute.
- Change your sponge once every week or every other week.
- Don’t wipe up blood or juice that comes out of meat with a sponge.Instead, use a disposable towel or disinfectant wipe.
Avoid rotten meat and produce.Only eat fresh food. Use your senses to evaluate if food has spoiled.Look at the surface. If it’s slimy, moldy, or has an unusual taste or odor, do not eat it. Refrigerate your leftovers within two hours of eating. Use a resealable container to store food properly in your fridge. Eat leftovers within two or three days.
- Do not eat raw meat that has been refrigerated for more than a day or two.
- Do not eat anything with a broken seal.
- Do not eat canned foods that are bulging or dented -- this could indicate the presence of bacteria.
Drink only clean, treated water.Campylobacter is common in the developing world. Therefore, if you travel to a foreign country make sure that your water comes from a treated source.
- Wells can also sometimes become infected with campylobacter. If you have a well, then have your well water tested regularly to ensure that it is safe.
- If you are not sure if the water is safe to drink, then only drink bottled water.
Avoid unpasteurized milk.Pasteurization is the process in which milk is heated, killing 99% of all bacteria within it. Raw milk, however, is not pasteurized, and therefore puts you at higher risk for campy infection.
- Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated if the cow has aCampylobacterinfection in its udder, or if the milk is contaminated with manure.
Minimizing your Risk of Infection Outside the Kitchen
Do not drink untreated surface water.Infected feces from cows or wild birds can contaminate mountain streams and surface water. Avoid drinking directly from lakes, streams, and other bodies of water without purifying them.
- If you wish to purify your water, simply heat the water until it reaches a rolling boil. Wait for at least one minute while the water boils, then remove it from the heat. Let it cool about ten minutes before drinking.
Use caution when handling feces.If you have a pet or infant, you might be picking up poo. Wear disposable gloves when handling poo or changing diapers. Once you’re done, dispose of the gloves in the trash. Wash your hands vigorously with an antibacterial soap.
Use caution when traveling through developing countries.Developing nations have a higher rate of campy infection than developed nations. If you can see your food being prepared, ensure the cook washes his or her hands and uses all appropriate food safety precautions.
- Use caution when eating at restaurants. Look online for restaurants that received good reviews from other travelers.
- About one-fifth of campy cases are associated with travel.
Look for diarrhea.Diarrhea is runny or liquid stool. In extreme cases, the stool might be bloody, too.If you have diarrhea, try to eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day instead of three big meals. You should also eat salty foods like soup and pretzels, and potassium-rich foods like bananas and potatoes.
- A dangerous secondary symptoms brought on by diarrhea is dehydration. If you are suffering from diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of water. Eight to ten glasses each day is the recommended amount.
- If you or anyone else has diarrhea, disinfect the toilet once your infection has passed.
Watch for cramping.Cramping or stomach pain might be constant, but it might also be intermittent.Any sharp pain or wrenching sensation in your gut can be considered cramping.
- Cramps are often accompanied by diarrhea.
Note any nausea.If you feel nauseous, you might have a campy infection. Following feelings of nausea, you might actually vomit.Keep a trashcan nearby if you feel nauseous, and vomit into it if necessary. After vomiting, rinse your mouth out with water, then spit the water into the sink.
Check for a fever.A fever is defined as any temperature above 99-99.5°F (37.2-37.5°C). Don’t take your temperature after you’ve been working out or exposed yourself to a significant source of heat (such as a hot oven, sauna, or a hot summer day). In children, the criteria for a temperature depends on how you’re measuring the child’s temperature. Look for a temperature of:
- 100.4°F (38°C) if measuring rectally
- 99.5°F (37.5°C) if measuring orally
- 99°F (37.2°C) if measuring under the arm
Treating Your Infection
Use supportive treatment measures.Treatment of campylobacter is focused on management of acute dehydration, electrolyte status, and nutrition.
- Begin rehydrating immediately and maintain hydration through the appropriate fluid intake.You can drink water or sports drinks as well as commercial rehydration products such as Pedialyte or Rehydralyte.
- Resume a normal diet as soon as you can tolerate it.
Find out if antibiotics are warranted for your case.In some instances, campylobacter treatment may include an antibiotic.A doctor may base the decision of whether or not to use an antibiotic with suspected Campylobacter on a test of your feces.
- The decision to use an antibiotic should be carefully weighed against unintended and potentially harmful consequences such as development of super antimicrobial-resistant infections, and worsening diarrhea as the normal flora of the stomach gets eradicated.
Try to connect your infection to a specific instance.The symptoms of a campy infection often don’t develop immediately. Your symptoms can start anywhere from one to seven days after infection.When you develop the symptoms, try to connect your infection with something you ate, drank, or did that might have brought about the infection.
- If you later consult a doctor, he or she might want to know the origin of your infection, and any information you can offer will help them make a better diagnosis.
- Knowing where your infection came from can also help you make better choices in the future to prevent another infection.
Know when to call your doctor.Usually, people infected withCampylobacterrecover after about one week. However, there are several cases where you should call your doctor for treatment, including:
- if you have a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) and above, accompanied by diarrhea.
- if your condition deteriorates and your symptoms become more frequent and intense after five to seven days.
- if you’re seriously dehydrated. Serious dehydration is characterized by feeling lightheaded, thirsty, and dizzy.
- if you have diarrhea and have recently traveled to a foreign nation.
- if you see blood in your stool.
- if your diarrhea does not become less frequent after five days (or after two days for children).
Get tested.If your symptoms are significant enough that you feel talking to a doctor is necessary, he or she will need to run tests to confirm that you have campy. Because many other infections can cause the same symptoms,Campylobactermust be tested for by a doctor. This usually consist of a stool specimen culture. The doctor might also do a blood cell count, with special attention to your white blood cell count.
- White blood cells are important because they help stop infections.
Wait it out.If you are healthy, you should recover from your infection within a week. In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids. If you are older or immuno-compromised, however, you should seek medical attention.
Fight the infection with antibiotics.If the infection is more severe, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to shorten the length of your infection. The most common prescription antibiotic is amoxicillin.
- There are several natural antibiotic compounds that you might use to reduce the impact of your infection. For instance, cinnamon, garlic powder, oregano, allspice, and onion powder could help you recover.
- If you recently added a kitten or puppy to your household, take the animal to a veterinarian immediately if they develop persistent, watery diarrhea. The infection can be spread from an infected animal to a human.
Video: What is Campylobacter? Why is food safety important to prevent it?
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