After hearing of a recent outbreak of campylobacter in the news, I thought it would be beneficial to explain what campylobacter is, how it is caught and how to avoid it.
According to the Food Standards Agency, the bacteria could be responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning per year. The agency state that although still analysing, estimates have shown that campylobacter has caused around 100 deaths a year.
Campylobacter is an extremely dangerous, but common bacteria found in raw meat especially poultry. It can also be found in unpasteurised milk or water that has been untreated and occasionally mushrooms and shellfish. It has also been known to spread from animals (e.g. cat and dogs) although symptoms in animals are often not visible.
The incubation period is between 2-5 days whilst the duration of the infection could last up to 10 days. The most common symptoms are sickness (this doesn't always occur), nausea and diarrhoea. It can also be paired with stomach cramps and high temperature.
In order to treat campylobacter, it is essential to ensure a person continues to drink fluids due to the large amount of fluid lost through diarrhoea and sickness. Water should be the main source of fluid, however it can be sometimes beneficial to drink fruit juices and soups to ensure sugars and salts are replaced. When a person feels like eating again, diet should be bland and low in fatty, processed or spicy foods.
Preventing campylobacter involves maintaining good personal hygiene as well as ensuring food is prepared and cooked safely. Hands should be washed after using the toilet and before preparing or eating food, as well as ensuring hands are dried properly. Toilets should be disinfected frequently along with towels being frequently changed. In terms of food preparation and storage, foods should be separated (e.g. do not cut vegetables on a meat chopping board) and stored appropriately (e.g. raw meat stored away from ready to eat foods).