Illinois county reports an outbreak of infections from Campylobacter

The McHenry County Department of Health in Illinois is reporting a significant increase in infections from Campylobacter.

Health officials have identified eight cases of campylobacteriosis with illness onsets between Aug. 17 and Aug. 30. That is four times more cases compared to the previous two weeks and 3.33 times more cases in August compared to July.

“No common source of infection has been identified at this time,” according to the health department.

According to county health officials, campylobacter bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States. People can become ill with campylobacteriosis by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or having contact with infected animals.

Most people who become ill from the infection get diarrhea, which may be bloody, and may experience cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the bacteria. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. The illness typically lasts about one week. Those who believe they have symptoms should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

The majority of people with campylobacteriosis will recover on their own and should drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics are occasionally used to treat severe cases or people at high risk for severe disease.

The best way to prevent a campylobacteriosis infection is to take precautions:

  • Do not drink unpasteurized or raw milk or untreated water from lakes, rivers, or ponds;
  • Practice good hand hygiene, especially when handling puppies or kittens with diarrhea;
  • Wash hands before, during, and after preparing food;
  • Cook all raw meats to proper temperature;
  • Use soap and hot water to wash cutting boards, counters, or utensils used to prepare raw poultry, seafood, or meat to prevent cross-contamination with other foods; and
  • Avoid handling food, caring for others, patient care, or daycare work if symptomatic.

About Campylobacter infections
People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Nausea and vomiting may accompany diarrhea. These symptoms usually start two to five days after the person ingests Campylobacter and last about one week.

Sometimes Campylobacter infections cause complications, such as irritable bowel syndrometemporary paralysis, and arthritis.

In people with weakened immune systems, such as those with a blood disorder, AIDS, or receiving chemotherapy, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a life-threatening infection.

Campylobacter infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses. It is diagnosed when a laboratory test detects Campylobacter bacteria in stool, body tissue, or fluids. The test could be a culture that isolates the bacteria or a rapid diagnostic test that detects the genetic material of the bacteria.
Most people recover from Campylobacter infection without antibiotic treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts.

Some people with, or at risk for, severe illness might need antibiotic treatment. These people include those 65 years or older, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with a blood disorder, AIDS, or 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 prescribed antibiotics should take them exactly as directed and tell their healthcare provider if they do not feel better.

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