It's estimated that each year, foodborne disease account for more than 9 million illnesses in the United States.
In the latest installment of our foodborne illness series, we're going to look at Campylobacter, a species of bug that is notorious for causing diarrhea related food poisoning.
In this article, you're going to learn what these bugs are, where they come from, what they do, and how to protect yourself from them.
Are Campylobacter Bacteria?
(The image Campylobacter bacteria from the USDA Agricultural Research Service via wikipedia)
Yes. In fact Campylobacter is the name given to an entire genus of closely related germs. Fast moving and spiral shaped, Campylobacter species live within moist, airless environments. The intestines of birds, human beings and other mammals make suitable homes for them.
How Do Campylobacter Make You Sick?
When Campylobacter get into the intestines of infected people and animals, they produce a poisonous substance that is harmful to surrounding cells. After the cells become sick from the poisons, the Campylobacter invade the weakened cells and parasitize them. These bacteria are believed to cause 2.4 million cases of gastorintestinal disease each year.
According to health experts, infants and young adults are more likely to become infected by the disease than any other group. The bacteria cause their victims to develop diarrhea or bloody diarrhea which can last for about one week. Even though the illness isn't usually fatal, every year 124 people are killed by these bacteria, government health experts say.
The good news is that Campylobacter are obligate anaerobes meaning that they absolutely can't stand oxygen. In other words, if these bacteria are exposed to air, they'll die.
How Does Food Become Contaminated With Campylobacter ?
The species that is most likely to infect humans is Campylobacter jejuni. This species lives within the guts of birds and other animals. When poultry are killed and their intestines exposed, it can provide an opportunity for the bacteria to migrate to other parts of the body i.e. muscle tissue which might be consumed by humans.
The bacteria can be transferred via fecal matter or drinking infected milk or water. For example, if a person is preparing meat or other food products on unclean cutting boards, they're exposing themselves to Campylobacter. Or if people drink milk from cattle that maybe infected with Campylobacter, there's a good chance that these germs will be transferred to their body, too.
How Do We Prevent Campylobacteria Infection?
Safe cooking practices and good hygiene are very effective in stopping these bacteria in their tracks. In fact, health experts offer these suggestions that can significantly reduce your chances of Campylobacter infection.
- Thoroughly cook poultry meats at a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before handling raw meats.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and other foods.
- Clean all counter tops and cooking utensils with hot soapy water after using them to prepare raw meats.
- Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.
- Avoid drinking untreated water.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animal feces - that includes pets.
- Make sure that every meat that you consume is thoroughly cooked regardless of who serves it to you.
Practice good hygiene to prevent Campylobacter from camping out in you.
Although Campylobacter isn't so bad as far as foodborne pathogens go, we should never underestimate them. When we take good care of ourselves, we make it harder for the germs to take care of us.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
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CDC - Campylobacter, General Information - NCZVED http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/campylobacter/#what
CDC Data & Statistics http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsFoodborneEstimates/
Campylobacter. wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campylobacter
Moore, J.E., Corcoran, D., Dooley, J.S.G., Fanning, S., Lucey, B., Matsuda, M. McDowell, D.A. et al. Campylobacter 36(3) DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2005012
"Prevent Campylobacter From Camping Out In You" copyright © 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.