Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and, in rare cases, the bloodstream.

It is the most commonly reported cause of bacterial diarrhea in Wisconsin.

Most cases are seen in the summer months and occur as single cases or outbreaks.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) information about the 2016 Multistate Investigation of Multidrug-Resistant Campylobacter Infections webpage.

Impact of this outbreak in Wisconsin can be found on our Past Outbreaks in Wisconsin webpage.

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Puppy being held inside a car

Napping puppy rests in her owner's arm
Sleepy puppy rests in his owner's arm

Campylobacter 101

 What is Campylobacter and how is it spread?  

Campylobacter bacteria is a common cause of diarrhea in the U.S. Most cases happen by eating undercooked poultry products that have the bacteria on it. According to the CDC, it takes a very small amount of Campylobacter germs to make someone sick. That means a single drop of juice from raw chicken can have enough Campylobacter in it to make someone sick.

Campylobacter bacteria commonly live in the intestines of many types of animals, including dogs and cats. They can also carry Campylobacter bacteria in their poop. Puppies and dogs with a Campylobacter infection might show no signs of illness or might have diarrhea, vomiting, and a fever. If you do not wash your hands well after being around a dog or cat that is sick with Campylobacter, you could pick up the disease from them.

 What are the signs and symptoms of Campylobacter

Most people develop the following symptoms two to five days after being exposed to Campylobacter:

  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of a Campylobacter infection last about a week. The infection does not usually spread from one person to another. 

 What kind of Campylobacter is called "multidrug resistant?"

Most people with Campylobacter infections do not require antibiotic treatment, but some will.

There are certain antibiotics health care providers typically prescribe for the treatment of most strains of Campylobacter infections. However, the 2017 outbreak strain of Campylobacter was resistant to those antibiotics.

Doctors can prescribe other antibiotics for cases of the infection after confirming the infection is caused by a multidrug resistant strain of Campylobacter.

 How is Campylobacter diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis

Campylobacter infection is diagnosed when a laboratory test detects Campylobacter bacteria in stool (poop), body tissue, or fluids. The test could be a culture that isolates the bacteria or a rapid diagnostic test that detects genetic material of the bacteria.

Treatment

Most people recover from Campylobacter infection without antibiotic treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as diarrhea lasts.

Some people with, or at risk for, severe illness might need antibiotic treatment. These people include those who are 65 years or older, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with a blood disorder, with AIDS, or receiving chemotherapy.

Some types of antibiotics may not work for some types of Campylobacter. When antibiotics are necessary, healthcare providers can use laboratory tests to help determine which type of antibiotics will likely be effective.

People who are prescribed antibiotics should take them exactly as directed and tell their healthcare provider if they do not feel better.

 How can I keep from getting sick from Campylobacter?

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching your puppy or dog, after handling their food, and after cleaning up after them.
    • Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Use disposable gloves to clean up after your puppy or dog, and wash your hands afterwards. Clean up any urine (pee), poop, or vomit in the house immediately. Then disinfect the area using a water and bleach solution.
  • Don’t let pets lick around your mouth and face.
  • Don’t let pets lick open wounds or areas with broken skin.
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian regularly to keep it healthy and to help prevent the spread of disease.

Please see the CDC guidance for more information.

 Resources

Provider Information

This is a Wisconsin disease surveillance category II disease:

Wisconsin case reporting and public health follow-up guidelines:

Questions about Campylobacter? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976

Last Revised: July 22, 2021