Latest information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) risks
Public Health Scotland logo

Fit for Travel Logo

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Campylobacter

Introduction

Campylobacter is an infection spread mainly through food and water that can cause diarrhoea.

Recommendations for Travellers

All travellers should practice good Food and Water Precautions.

Personal hygiene when eating and drinking is very important.

  • Where possible, hands should be washed thoroughly using soap and clean water, prior to handling food, eating and always after using the toilet or handling animals.
  • Hand washing facilities may be poor or not available when travelling, therefore it is advisable to carry sanitising gel or hand wipes at all times.

Campylobacter bacteria are killed by heat and thoroughly cooking food to an adequate temperature helps prevent infection.

When there is any doubt regarding the standards of food preparation it is essential to avoid: 

  • uncooked, partially cooked, cold or reheated meats (particularly poultry)
  • raw eggs
  • unpasteurised milk or cheese

Overview of the Disease

Campylobacter infection is a food and water-borne bacterial diarrhoeal illness. Animals and birds carry Camypylobacter in their guts. People usually acquire the infection after eating undercooked meat (commonly poultry) or food that has been contaminated with bacteria during its preparation. Eating or drinking unpasteurised milk and milk products, ice or water contaminated by Campylobacter can also result in infection.

The illness

Symptoms usually start 1 to 10 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

The commonest symptoms are diarrhoea (watery or containing blood), fever and tummy cramps.

The symptoms are usually not severe and get better over 2 to 7 days.  Symptoms are more severe in the young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

After the infection has resolved, rarely people may then develop ‘post infectious irritable bowel syndrome’, Guillain-Barre syndrome or reactive arthritis.

Treatment

Staying hydrated is the most important measure during symptoms – see ‘Treatment of Travellers’ Diarrhoea’.

Antibiotics are not needed for most infections. Antibiotic resistance to ‘fluroquinolones’ such as Ciprofloxacin is common, so it is important that the correct antibiotics are prescribed.

back to top