Campylobacter can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person.

Infection may occur in a variety of ways:

  • Eating under-cooked pork or poultry - this is common at barbecues
  • Eating other food that has had the Campylobacter transferred to them by cross-contamination - this is the commonest method of infection. For example, sandwiches can be cross-contaminated if they are prepared on a board that has previously been used to cut up raw chicken
  • Drinking unpasteurised milk or contaminated water

Contact with infected pets (especially puppies or kittens) or farm animals may cause a Campylobacter infection.

There is also evidence of contamination from birds pecking at milk bottle tops. You should not use any milk from bottles where this has happened.

How common is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrhoeal illness in the UK. Virtually all cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as a part of large outbreaks.

Most human illness is caused by one species, called Campylobacter jejuni, but 1% of human Campylobacter cases are caused by other species.

How can a Campylobacter infection be treated?

Virtually all persons infected with Campylobacter will recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink plenty of fluids as long as the diarrhoea lasts. In more severe cases, antibiotics such as erythromycin or a fluoroquinolone can be used and can shorten the duration of symptoms, if they are given early in the illness. Your doctor will make the decision about whether antibiotics are necessary.

Are there long-term consequences?

Most people who get campylobacteriosis recover completely within 2 to 5 days, although sometimes recovery can take up to 10 days.

How soon can I return to work or my children return to school?

As soon as you feel well enough, which is usually after the diarrhoea stops. However, if you are a food handler, or work in childcare, healthcare or care for the elderly, or with the medically or mentally impaired you should not return to work until 48 hours after stools have returned to normal, without the need for medication of any sort.

How can I avoid getting it again?

Good personal hygiene during and after the illness, both for the sufferer and close contacts, will minimise the risk of spreading the illness or getting it again.

You should observe a few simple rules to prevent cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods:

  • At the shops, raw and cooked meats should be packed in separate bags
  • Frozen meat must be thawed completely in a cool place before cooking. The thawed liquid and raw meat may contain millions of bacteria, so they must not be allowed to come into contact with other foods or clean surfaces and equipment
  • Fresh or thawed meat should be stored in the fridge in a closed, leak-proof container
  • Preparation is best done at the sink / draining board:
  1. First clear the area completely and have everything you need to hand - utensils, rubbish bin, etc.
  2. Afterwards wash everything you have used immediately in very hot water (wear gloves) or use a dishwasher. Clean the area with hot water and detergent and then prepare a weak solution of bleach (the equivalent of an eggcup full in a bucket of water) or use a food grade sanitiser and wipe over all the surfaces you have touched
  • Make sure that pork or poultry is thoroughly cooked before you eat it; the meat or juices should not be pink. Cooking meat to a temperature of over 75 degrees centigrade will destroy the Campylobacter bacteria


Environmental Health contact information

Postal address:, Civic, 1 Saxon Gate East, Milton Keynes MK9 3EJ