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Foodborne Diseases

Campylobacter Infections

Campylobacteriosis, caused by species of the Campylobacter genus of bacteria, is characterized by enteritis, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, malaise, and fever. Campylobacter recently has been recognized as the leading cause of diarrheal disease in the United States. While some infections are asymptomatic, others may result in arthritis and, rarely, febrile convulsions or meningitis. Infection with Campylobacter also can be associated with the development of Guillain-Barre

Syndrome (GBS), the leading cause of acute paralysis in this country. GBS develops in a small number of persons two to four weeks after Campylobacter infection and usually after diarrheal symptoms have resolved. GBS is characterized by progressive paralysis of the limbs and, in more severe cases, development of respiratory failure requiring prolonged hospitalization. Campylobacter jejuni, C. fetus, and C. coli are the usual causes of campylobacteriosis in people.

Campylobacter organisms cause between 5 and 14 percent of all diarrheal illness worldwide. In industrialized countries, illness is more common in children younger than 2 years of age. In developing countries, older children and young adults have the highest incidence of infection. Most frequently, cattle and poultry are the sources of human infection, but puppies, kittens, pigs, sheep, rodents, and birds may also serve as reservoirs. Transmission usually occurs through ingestion of contaminated food or water or raw milk, or by contact with infected infants, pets or wild animals.

References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health.

last update: November 2008

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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