Campylobacter spp. is one of the common cause of gastro-enteritis / food poisoning, and is sometimes called 'travellers disease'.


The intestinal tract of most domestic and wild animals, including birds.

Infection can be spread from animal to person and by person to person and by the ingestion of organisms in foods such as unpasteurised milk or treated water.


The incubation period is between 3 and 7 days but can range from 1 to 11 days.

Symptoms include severe abdominal pain with fever, headache and dizziness followed by severe diarrhoea and rarely vomiting. The symptoms last over a few days and adults are more severely affected than children.

Preventative Measures

  1. Thoroughly cook foodstuffs derived from animal origin.
  2. Avoid recontamination of cooked foods by ensuring that hands and equipment after handling raw food.
  3. Drink only pasteurised milk. Bottles that have been tampered with by birds should not be drunk; throw away affected milk.
  4. Always wash you hands after animal contact.
  5. Keep animals food and bowls etc completely separate from the family's food and dishes

Do Infected People need to stay away from Work or School?

Most infected people may return to work or school once their bowel movements have returned to normal for 48 hours and provided that they carefully wash their hands after toilet visits.

Food handlers, health care workers and children in day care must obtain the approval of the Environmental Health Department before returning to their routine activities.

What is the treatment?

Most people will recover on their own. Fluid replacement to prevent dehydration is important. Eating live yoghurt or honey may help the recovery. Antibiotics are occasionally used to treat some cases, or those who relapse.

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of diarrhoea in the UK. It is generally considered to be a food borne or water borne infection rather than food poisoning. If the bacteria are present in food they do not tend to multiply in it, however once swallowed the bacteria can multiply in the gut causing infection. Only a small number of bacteria need to be ingested to produce the symptoms. Illness lasts for about 1 week, but even after recovering, the patient can continue to pass the bacteria in their stools for a number of weeks - as a "healthy carrier". Infections are usually highest in the late spring and early summer and then in the autumn. The reason for this are not altogether understood at present.

What food is affected?

This type of food poisoning is not only associated with raw meat and poultry but also with untreated milk and infected pets. Around 50% of dogs and cats excrete the bacteria in their faeces and as a result, the animal's coat becomes contaminated. In this way it is passed on to humans, especially children who stroke their pets. Campylobacter bacterium can also be found on many farm animals, such as cows, sheep and chickens.

What are the symptoms?

Flu-like symptoms for the first 24 hours, consisting of fever, headaches and aching muscles, then followed by stomach cramps and severe diarrhoea which usually last from 1-10 days. The symptoms start between 2 and 10 days after eating the contaminated food.

Action to be taken!

During the diarrhoea phase personal hygiene should be scrupulous and food handling avoided. It is during this time that it is possible to pass the infection on to other people

NOTE: Campylobacter bacteria are easily killed by thorough cooking, therefore the risk lies in the consumption of raw foods or cooked foods which have been contaminated either as a result of poor handling or the use of dirty utensils.

If you need further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us

Last Modified: 05/12/2018
For more information contact:

The Food, Health & Safety Team

Tel: 01633 648009 / 648095

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