Campylobacter infection occurs in the small intestine from bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni. It is a type of food poisoning.
Food poisoning - campylobacter enteritis; Infectious diarrhea - campylobacter enteritis; Bacterial diarrhea; Campy; Gastroenteritis - campylobacter; Colitis - campylobacter
People most often get infected by eating or drinking food or water that contains the bacteria. The most commonly contaminated foods are raw poultry, fresh produce, and unpasteurized milk.
A person can also be infected by close contact with infected people or animals.
Symptoms start 2 to 4 days after being exposed to the bacteria. They often last a week, and may include:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. These tests may be done:
- Complete blood count (CBC) with differential
- Stool sample testing for white blood cells
- Stool culture for Campylobacter jejuni
The infection almost always goes away on its own, and often does not need to be treated with antibiotics. Severe symptoms may improve with antibiotics.
The goal is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration. Dehydration is a loss of water and other fluids in the body.
These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. For people who do not have diabetes, fluids should contain salts and simple sugars. For those with diabetes, sugar-free fluids should be used.
- Drink at least 1 cup (240 milliliters) of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement.
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of 3 big meals.
- Eat some salty foods, such as pretzels, soup, and sports drinks.
- Eat some high-potassium foods, such as bananas, potatoes without the skin, and watered-down fruit juices.
Most people recover in 5 to 8 days.
When a person's immune system does not work well, the Campylobacter infection may spread to the heart or brain.
Other problems that may occur are:
- A form of arthritis called reactive arthritis
- A nerve problem called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which leads to paralysis (rare)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
- You have diarrhea that continues for more than 1 week or it comes back.
- There is blood in your stools.
- You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting.
- You have a fever above 101°F (38.3°C), and diarrhea.
- You have signs of dehydration (thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness)
- You have recently traveled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea.
- Your diarrhea does not get better in 5 days, or it gets worse.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
Call your provider if your child has:
- A fever above 100.4°F (37.7°C) and diarrhea
- Diarrhea that does not get better in 2 days, or it gets worse
- Been vomiting for more than 12 hours (in a newborn under 3 months you should call as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begins)
- Reduced urine output, sunken eyes, sticky or dry mouth, or no tears when crying
Learning how to prevent food poisoning can reduce the risk for this infection.
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DuPont HL. Approach to the patient with suspected enteric infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 283.
Haines CF, Sears CL. Infectious enteritis and proctocolitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 110.
Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 140.
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.