Campylobacter jejuni (CAM-pee-lo-back-ter jee-JOO-nee) is a bacterial disease that few people are familiar with, yet it is the third leading cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the U.S. The fatality rate is fairly low for healthy people, fortunately. Anyone may become ill with this disease, but the most easily affected groups are children younger than 5 years old, and young adults between 15 to 29 years old. Infants between 6 to 12 months old have the highest rate of illness, and the disease can also cause miscarriage in pregnant women. People with weak immune systems, such as with AIDS, are 40 times more likely to experience illness.
The onset time of Campylobacter (Campy to some of us), is usually 2 to 5 days. The symptoms of illness may include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, nausea and cramping. These will usually go away by themselves if the person is otherwise healthy.
Campylobacter is found in the intestines of most food-producing (farm) animals, such as chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and sheep. It has also been found in seafood and vegetables, that were contaminated from nonchlorinated (untreated) water. People often get Campy from eating undercooked meats, from unpasteurized or “raw” dairy products such as milk or cheeses, or untreated water, from ponds or streams.
Prevent this infection by cleaning your hands and work areas in the kitchen, separate raw meats and prevent cross contamination, cook raw food according to instructions, and it’s especially important to eat only pasteurized dairy foods, especially for children.