Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning on the island of Ireland.
Most people who get ill from Campylobacter get better quickly but the illness can also cause long-term and serious health problems in some. Campylobacter infections occur more often during the summer months. Children under five and the elderly are most at risk because they may have weaker immune systems.
How can I be exposed to this infection?
Infection from Campylobacter bacteria is mainly spread from animals and humans. Campylobacter may be isolated from a wide range of healthy animals such as domestic cats and dogs, birds, cattle, pigs, poultry and goats. It may be easily spread from animal to animal through contact with infected faeces or through a common water supply.
You may become infected through:
- Eating undercooked poultry and pork
- Cross contamination from raw chicken/poultry to other ready to eat foods or food contact surfaces
- Drinking contaminated water or raw milk
- Contact with infected domestic or farm animals
Although poultry are the cause of many infections, eggs are usually free from Campylobacter.
How do I know if I have a Campylobacter infection?
After an incubation period of between 3-5 days, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea (often bloody)
Vomiting is not usually a symptom.
Most people who get the infection recover completely within two to five days, though this may take up to ten days in some cases.
How can it be treated?
In most cases, you will recover without treatment. Always exercise caution and visit your doctor. They may prescribe antibiotics or fluid and electrolyte replacement, depending on how severe your illness is. Drink plenty of water so you don’t become dehydrated.
How can I avoid getting infected?
- Always cook chicken or poultry products thoroughly, until there is no pink meat left, the juices should run clear and its piping hot all the way through.
- Wash hands thoroughly with warm soapy water before and after preparing or handling raw poultry and meat and before touching anything else.
- Don’t wash raw chicken or poultry before cooking as it can spread food poisoning bacteria like Campylobacter around your kitchen. When you cook chicken properly, you kill all the harmful bacteria.
- Avoid cross-contamination by never letting raw chicken come into contact with ready-to-eat food. Wash all chopping boards, work surfaces and utensils with hot soapy water after preparing raw poultry and meat.
- Avoid drinking unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
- Make sure that people with diarrhoea (especially children) wash their hands thoroughly with soap to reduce the risk of spreading infection.
- Wash hands thoroughly with warm soapy water after having contact with animals.