Campylobacter is a bacteria which causes an infection of the bowel. The bacteria is found in the gut of birds (especially poultry), animals and infected people. It is passed on in faeces. You become infected when the bacteria is swallowed, for example, from contaminated food and water, or from contact with infected animals or humans.

Doctors and laboratories are legally required to notify the Public Health Service of cases of campylobacter disease under the Health Act 1956.

Campylobacter is the most frequently notified disease in New Zealand. In the Nelson Marlborough district over 200 cases of campylobacter disease are notified to the Public Health Service each year. There is usually a peak in spring and summer.

Symptoms

The disease may cause abdominal pain, fever and diarrhoea, sometimes with bloody stools. People get sick within one to ten days (usually three to five days) after ingesting the bacteria and these symptoms can last for about ten days.

 Contact your GP or Healthline (0800 611 116) for further advice.

How is it spread?

Campylobacter disease may be foodborne, but it can also be contracted by drinking contaminated water or by direct contact with animals.

Prevention

Wash your hands thoroughly:

  • after going to the toilet or changing nappies
  • before and after preparing or handling food
  • after handling raw poultry or meat
  • after contact with animals
  • after contact with chickens or collecting eggs.

Be careful with food preparation and storage:

  • thaw meat in the fridge, rather than at room temperature
  • ensure knives and surfaces are thoroughly cleaned after contact with raw meat
  • keep hot food hot, and cold food cold
  • use separate cutting boards for preparing raw and cooked products, to avoid cross contamination
  • ensure raw meat juices or drippings do not contaminate foods that are cooked or will be eaten raw
  • keep poultry and meat products refrigerated
  • cook poultry thoroughly, until the juices are clear
  • ensure all meat is cooked thoroughly, especially when barbequeing
  • do not handle food if you have diarrhoea.

Avoid drinking water directly from rivers, streams and creeks.

Infected people should remain away from work, school, preschool/childcare for 48 hours after symptoms have gone.