What Is Enteric
Enteric campylobacteriosis is an infection of the small
intestine caused by a class of bacteria called Campylobacter. It’s one
of the most common causes of diarrhea and intestinal infection worldwide. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1.3
million people in the United States are affected by it every year.
Usually, only a small number of people are infected at a time.
However, it may also occur as an outbreak. In other words, many people may be
infected at the same time. A common contamination source can cause an outbreak.
What Are the Symptoms of Enteric
The symptoms usually take two to three days to appear. Some
people may not experience any symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they
- diarrhea and sometimes bloody feces
- abdominal pain
- abdominal cramping
- fever, headaches, and muscle pain, which are
usually experienced during the first 24 hours of infection
- dehydration, which may also cause dizziness,
nausea, headaches, dry mouth, tiredness, and oliguria (infrequent urination)
- a constant feeling that you need to pass stool
- vomiting, which is rare
Diarrhea can make you dehydrated. Severe dehydration can
potentially be life-threatening. It’s important to remain hydrated by drinking
plenty of water and fluids that contain electrolytes. In extreme cases, you may
need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids, which are fluids
administered through your veins.
What Are the Causes of Enteric
The majority of infections are caused by a species of the
bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni. However, Campylobacter fetus and Campylobacter
coli can also infect humans.
The Campylobacter species of bacteria are often
found in birds and chickens. These animals provide the ideal living situation
for the bacteria. When a chicken is slaughtered, the bacteria may migrate from
the animal’s intestines to their muscles. This is the meat we end up eating.
The most common way to get infected is to eat raw or undercooked
poultry. People who work around poultry are also at increased risk of
Other things that may increase your chances of being infected
- travel to developing countries
- a lack of clean food or water
- cross-contamination, such as from using a
cutting board that’s used for both raw meat and ready-to-eat vegetables
- drinking unpasteurized milk because a cow can
pass the bacteria to its milk if it gets infected with Campylobacter bacteria
How Is Enteric
Your doctor will ask you if you’ve recently traveled outside the
country. They may also ask about other members of your family who may be sick.
This can help them learn if you’re at risk for Campylobacter infection.
A stool culture is the primary method of diagnosis. A
sample of your stool will be sent to the laboratory to identify the bacteria
causing your infection. Your stool may also be examined under a microscope. The
presence of red blood cells and white blood cells can indicate infection.
How Is Enteric
The infection usually resolves on its own after a few days. Most
people usually recover within two days without any specific treatment.
In more serious cases, it can take up to 10 days for the
infection to clear.
Antibiotics may be useful if they’re taken early. They may
shorten the duration of your symptoms. Commonly prescribed antibiotics are erythromycin,
ciprofloxacin, and azithromycin.
What Is the Long-Term
For most people, the symptoms should start to clear in about a
week. However, Campylobacter infection is more dangerous for older
adults and people with compromised immune systems.
Rarely, some people may develop Guillain-Barre syndrome. In this
autoimmune condition, your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. It can
occur a few weeks after the initial infection and may cause temporary paralysis.
Some people may also develop post-infectious arthritis, although this is also
rare. This complication is thought to be due to an immune response. The
arthritis typically involves the knee, but it can be migratory and involve
How Can Enteric
Campylobacteriosis Be Prevented?
To lower your chances of being infected, practice good kitchen
hygiene by taking these steps:
- Cook all meat and poultry well.
- Wash your hands on a regular basis and before
eating your meals.
- Wash your hands immediately after touching raw
- Use separate cutting boards for meat and other
- Always clean cooking and eating utensils well.
- Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.
- If you’re not sure if your water or milk is
safe, boil it before drinking.
Taking these steps to practice food safety can help reduce
contamination and prevent an infection.