Campylobacter enteritis

Campylobacter enteritis 

 Camplobacter jejuni is now the most frequently reported reason for acute bacterial diarrhoea in the UK. In 2006, 46,603 faecal specimens submitted to laboratories in England and Wales tested positive for campylobacter and 4,865 in Scotland. However, high-risk food was only proven to be a vehicle for a few of these. The main vehicle has yet to be identified.

Symptoms include headache, fever, diarrhoea (often bloodstained), persistent colicky abdominal pain ( may mimic acute appendicitis) and nausea ( vomiting is rare). The incubation period is usually between two and five days and the normal duration of illness is 1 to 7 days.

Campylobacters disappear from the stools within a few weeks of illness and long-term carriers have not been detected. Animals and wild birds are the main source and as campylobacters can survive in water for several weeks, untreated water is a potential source. Campylobacters are commonly found on raw poultry, in raw milk and sewage and on carcass meat and offal.

Transmission is thought to be from raw and under-cooked poultry and meat, raw milk, bottled milk pecked by birds, especially magpies, contaminated water (private supplies)  and infected dogs and cats. Person-to-person spread and secondary cases are rare. Cross-contamination from raw poultry is extremely likely and hands can carry campylobacters for up to an hour. Campylobacters multiply quickly between 37°C and 43°C but not below 28°C or avove 46°C. The organisms may be destroyed by heating food to 60°C for 15 minutes and are sensitive to drying. Illness can be caused by less than 500 organisms.


Control measures include reducing the numbers of campylobacters in raw meat and the food chain, hygiene training of food handlers, especially on the dangers of cross-contamination and the importance of thorough cooking, and also raising the hygiene awareness of consumers. Milk should be heat treated and water chlorinated.