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campylobacter the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the United States

Updated: Sunday, Jun 20,2010, 2:50:51 PM
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campylobacter the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the United States. Virtually all cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as a part of large outbreaks. Many cases go undiagnosed or unreported. Campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 2 million persons every year. Infants and young adults are the groups hit the most often by the bacteria.

Campylobacter is actually a group of spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause disease in humans and animals. Most human illness is caused by one species, called Campylobacter jejuni. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with handling raw poultry or eating raw or undercooked poultry meat. A very small number of campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can then spread to the other foods. The organism is not usually spread from person to person, but this can happen if the infected person is a small child or is producing a large volume of diarrhea.

Campylobacter causes gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis develop symptoms within 2 to 5 days after exposure to the organism. Symptoms include:

    * diarrhea
    * cramping
    * abdominal pain
    * fever

The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts 1 week. Most people recover without any treatment within 2 to 5 days. Sometimes, however, there can be complications. Infections in the digestive tract with Campylobacter may trigger reactive arthritis, a condition that can cause inflammation in the joints, and sometimes the eyes and/or urinary tract. Another concern with Campylobacter, especially for children and seniors, is dehydration. This happens if the body loses more fluids and salts (electrolytes) than it takes in. Signs of dehydration include a decrease in urine production, extreme thirst, dry mouth and unusual drowsiness. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and requires immediate care. special oral rehydration fluids can be purchased at drugstores. You should ask your pediatrician what's best in your child's case. If you have any concerns about dehydration, contact your doctor at once. It's also important to call your doctor if there is fever or prolonged vomiting.

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