Have you been affected with diarrhea, fever, or abdominal pain within a week of consuming an outside dinner or lunch? If yes, then there are greater chances of you being affected with food poisoning caused by campylobacter.
Campylobacter is a microaerophilic bacteria named Campylobacter jejuni. Campylobacter means ‘spiral-shaped bacteria’ or ‘twisted bacteria’. It is a gram-negative bacteria with either unipolar or bipolar flagella. There are several species of this bacteria that cause various types of diseases in human beings, out of which, campylobacter jejuni and campylobacter coli are the most commonly known bacteria. The first pathogen of this kind was found in the year 2000, and is the main bacteria that causes food poisoning and other food-borne gastrointestinal diseases.
Campylobacter poisoning is the most common type of food poisoning, mainly caused by consuming the food products contaminated by the pathogen. New Zealand has recorded the highest number of cases from the year 2006. Infants, teenagers, elders, and those with a damaged immune system are more vulnerable to these bacteria.
The incubation time of these bacteria is within 2 to 5 days of food consumption. The disease lasts for a week, sometimes, even for more than three weeks, in severe conditions, and only 25% of total affected people undergo any relapses. The pathogen starts with the normal influenza-like symptoms, such as fever, abdominal pain, muscle pain, and headache. However, the most frequent symptom is diarrhea and at times even a ‘bloody’ diarrhea. Some patients also suffer from nausea along with vomiting.
These infections mostly don’t require any kind of hospitalization, unless it’s the case of campylobacter jejuni, which can be fatal. It may infect the blood stream or cause appendicitis. The mortality rate in this infection is 1%. Death is most common in patients with weak immune system, liver diseases, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Some long-term consequences could be seen, such as uncommon disease like, ‘Guillain-Barré syndrome’ (GBS) that affects the central nervous system.
It starts after several weeks of constant diarrhea and lasts for weeks or even months. The patients do get fully recovered, but some may suffer from certain neurological dysfunctions. ‘Reiter’s syndrome’, which is also known as reactive arthritis, may also occur in some cases. This disease affects the joints of lower back and the knees. People with special genetic make, named human leukocyte antigen B27 (HLA-B27), are prone to this syndrome.
It is not always necessary to hospitalize patients infected with campylobacter, unless the symptoms are severe. A general pathological stool test is sufficient to detect the seriousness of the disease. Those infected, must include a lot of fluid intake to avoid dehydration. According to the condition of the patient, the physician may suggest some macrolide and fluoroquinolone antibiotics. But one must not take any antibiotics without proper medical consultation. In case of severe food infection, like in the GBS, ‘plasma exchange’, and ‘intravenous immunoglobulin infusion’ are the treatment methods administered to the patients for a faster recovery.
- The foremost preventive measure is to thoroughly cook all poultry products, mainly chicken breasts and other thick parts of chicken.
- If possible, eat moderately irradiated food, as it has the capacity to kill almost 99% pathogens.
- Never prepare a dish with thawed chicken. Always defrost it before consumption.
- Never mix one form of poultry product with another. Also, never keep it with any other vegetable or food product, while on the shelf or in the refrigerator.
- Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk and its products.
- Never leave leftover food outside, at the normal room temperature; always refrigerate it.
- Clean all vegetables and fruits, especially when eating them raw.
- Washing hands before preparing or consuming food, and also, all the utensils, countertops, tables, kitchen, and the dining area, aid effective prevention.
To avoid severe food poisoning, never ignore the early symptoms and contact your health care provider immediately.