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Campylobacter in food


What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is a bacterium that can be found in the gut of many pet, livestock and wild animals.

What illness does it cause?

Campylobacteriosis (a type of gastroenteritis). This a notifiable disease and must be reported to health authorities in all states and territories except NSW.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms are diarrhoea, cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting and tiredness. The diarrhoea often has blood or mucous in it.

Symptoms usually start 2-5 days after a person becomes infected (e.g. after eating contaminated food). Most people with gastroenteritis are usually sick for between several days to two weeks.

Sometimes the illness can become more serious and in rare cases Campylobacter can cause reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder).

Sometimes infected people have no symptoms.

Who can get sick?

Anyone can get campylobacteriosis but it is more likely that very young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems (e.g. cancer patients) could get seriously ill.

Where does it come from?

Campylobacter can get into food from the faeces (poo) of animals, for example during milking and poultry processing. Common foods that can be contaminated with Campylobacter include poultry (chicken and duck) products including pâté, meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

How can people get sick?

  • By eating or handling raw or undercooked food, especially chicken
  • By bacteria on equipment, food or hands being transferred to food that is ready to eat (won’t be further cooked)
  • By an infected person transferring bacteria to another person, usually by hands that have not been properly washed

How can illness be prevented?

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially poultry meat and liver
  • Thoroughly wash raw fruit and vegetables
  • Keep hands and equipment clean when preparing and eating food
  • Avoid cross contamination − for example use separate cutting boards and knives for raw and ready-to-eat food, and store cooked food separately from raw foods
  • Thoroughly reheat food (preferably to 75°C or hotter)


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