What is Campylobacter jejuni?

A 2011 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Campylobacter, the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the United States, causes approximately 845,000 illnesses in the U.S. each year.

Campylobacter is found most often in food, particularly in chicken. Food is contaminated when it comes into contact with animal feces.  Any raw poultry may contain Campylobacter, including organic and “free range” products.

What is the illness caused by Campylobacter jejuni typically like?

Symptoms of food poisoning from Campylobacter jejuni infection usually occur 2 to 5 days after a person eats contaminated food, but may take up to 10 days to appear. The most common symptom of a Campylobacter infection is diarrhea, which is often bloody.  Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Although complications from Campylobacter food poisoning are unlikely, they do occur in some cases. Although rare, Guillan-Barré Syndrome is the most common cause of acute generalized paralysis in the western world and can occur when the antibodies the body builds up against Campylobacter attack one’s nerve cells. Symptoms of GBS appear several weeks after diarrheal illness. Approximately one in every 1000 reported Campylobacter cases results in GBS.

Campylobacter infection may also lead to reactive arthritis. Symptoms include inflammation of the joints, eyes, or reproductive or urinary organs. On average, symptoms appear 18 days after infection.

You can learn more about Campylobacter jejuni infection at FoodborneIllness.com.