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Campylobacter is bacteria that are a common cause of food poisoning. It causes gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the intestines, which leads to diarrhoea, which is sometimes bloody and vomiting, but vomiting is not always present. This can lead to complications including dehydration in some cases. Sometimes antibiotics are needed to treat the infection. Symptoms tend to show themselves within 2-5 days of getting the contaminated food. The time before the symptoms appear called the incubation period can be up to 10 days before symptoms appear. 

In most cases, people start to feel better in 2-3 days but it can be up to a week to get over the infection. In severe cases, you can become dehydrated and you will need to consult Doctor who may prescribe antibiotics. Severe dehydration can ultimately lead to death, as your body’s organs need fluids to perform. 

There are about 280,000 Campylobacter infection cases every year in the UK, about 65% of chicken sold in the UK between May 2007 and September 2008 were infected with Campylobacter and 4 out of 5 cases are from contaminated poultry.

Campylobacter is found in raw meat but mainly in poultry. Cooking meat thoroughly usually kills the bacteria. Campylobacter can also be found in unpasteurized milk or untreated water including ice cubes and occasionally in mushrooms and shellfish. Pets that have Campylobacter can also pass it on to humans but the pet rarely shows signs of campylobacter.

Campylobacter can affect anyone but is more common in children under 5 and adults over 60 years old. It is also common in people who: travel to developing countries where sanitation and food hygiene is less strict, people who work with farm animals and people who work in the food industry.

The Food Standards Agency has a campaign which tells ways that the spread of Campylobacter can be reduced and the main thing they say is not to wash the inside of poultry. The cooking process will kill the bacteria but washing will spread the bacteria in the water on to work surfaces, your body and other food, which can spread the bacteria and cause an infection.

Poultry should be covered and stored at the bottom of the fridge so that is cannot drip fluids on to other food and at a temperature of fewer than 5 degrees Celsius. All utensils should be thoroughly washed and you must always wash your hands after handling poultry with soap and water. Infected water droplets can splash up to 50 to 70cm spreading the infection further.

Following these simple precautions will protect against a Campylobacter infection.