Campylobacter (Diarrhoea and vomiting)

An infection with campylobacter causes a gastroenteritis (commonly known as diarrhoea and vomiting).

You may feel very unwell with

  • Flu like symptoms
  • High temp
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain/ cramps
  • Diarrhoea (there may be blood in the diarrhoea)
The illness can last for up to 10 days, with an incubation period of 2-5 days. (The time from when you caught the germ to becoming unwell)

Common routes of infection include
Eating or drinking food contaminated with campylobacter
  • Raw meat, poultry and unpasteurised milk.
  • Milk that has been contaminated by birds pecking through the milk top
  • Any water that has been contaminated, unchlorinated water carries a risk.
Infection by pets
Puppies and kittens may harbour the germ How to avoid infection
  • Wash and dry hands carefully before and after handling raw meat.
  • Use separate cooking boards for preparing raw meat and wash all utensils in hot water and detergent.
  • Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly. Be particularly careful when barbecuing food. It is easy to overcook the outside and for the inside to be part cooked.
  • Wash hands regularly and carefully, particularly after going to the toilet and before preparing any food.
  • Discard milk from bottles with tops damaged by birds.
  • Avoid swallowing water if participating in water sports
  • Do not drink unchlorinated water
  • Take particular care when travelling in areas where sanitation is poor and water supplies may not be clean.
  • Take care when cleaning the litter trays of puppies and kittens; use gloves and wash hands carefully when finished.
The illness usually clears with supportive measures, ie paracetamol to control pain and fever, plenty of fluids and light diet. If you are very unwell, or if the symptoms persist, antibiotics might be appropriate. If you become unwell while abroad and in a hot climate, take particular care not to become dehydrated. Drink water to which you have added salt and sugar. 1 cup of water + a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar is a perfect solution. Rehydration fluids can be bought in any chemist, but are more expensive.

Further information

Health Protection Agency

This article published on
25 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013


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