SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Campylobacteriosis is a type of gastroenteritis caused by the Campylobacter bacteria. This is the most common type of gastroenteritis in Australia.
- Many healthy animals can carry Campylobacter bacteria in their faeces and spread the infection to humans.
- Safe food handling and thorough handwashing can help prevent campylobacteriosis.
On this page
What is campylobacteriosis?
Campylobacteriosis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) caused by a bacteria known as Campylobacter. Symptoms usually develop 2 to 5 days after becoming infected with the bacteria.
All age groups can be affected, but infection is more common in children under 5 years of age and young adults. Elderly people and those with other medical conditions often develop more severe symptoms.
Examination of a faeces (poo) sample will determine if you have the infection.
Symptoms of campylobacteriosis
The most common symptoms of campylobacteriosis are:
Causes of campylobacteriosis
Campylobacter bacteria are found in the faeces of many animals, including farm animals and household pets. People become infected when Campylobacter bacteria are taken in by mouth. This can happen by:
- eating undercooked meat, especially chicken
- drinking unpasteurised milk or drinking water contaminated with Campylobacter
- eating cooked food, which has been cross-contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria from raw food
- handling infected animals and not washing hands afterwards.
The infection can also be spread from person to person when:
- people with Campylobacter bacteria in their faeces do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet. Contaminated hands can then contaminate food which may be eaten by others and surfaces which may be touched by others
- hands become contaminated when changing the nappy of an infected infant.
People and animals can carry and spread the infection even if they don’t have symptoms.
Diagnosis of campylobacteriosis
It is very important to see your doctor if you think you have campylobacteriosis. To find out if you have the infection, your doctor will arrange a faeces (poo) sample for testing. If the results of the tests show that you have campylobacteriosis, your doctor will provide advice and appropriate treatment (if required) and will notify the Department of Health, Victoria.
Prevention of campylobacteriosis
To prevent the spread of infection:
- Keep children home from school, childcare or kindergarten until their symptoms have stopped.
- Do not go back to work until symptoms have stopped if you are a food handler, childcare or healthcare worker.
- Do not prepare or handle food until your symptoms have stopped.
- Do not share your towel or face washer with the infected person.
- Wash your hands with soap and hot running water after using the toilet, changing nappies and before preparing food.
- Clean bathrooms and other surfaces regularly.
Safe food storage and preparation
The risk of becoming infected with Campylobacter can be minimised:
- Cook all raw foods, especially meat, and wash raw vegetables properly.
- Store food below 5 °C or above 60 °C to prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Wash tongs, knives and cutting boards between using them for raw foods and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Make sure the internal temperature of reheated foods reaches at least 75 °C.
- Keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean.
Pet food and food safety
Research undertaken by the Victorian Department of Health has shown that pet food can sometimes be contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria. The risk is greater for dried or raw pet foods, but all pet foods should be handled with care.
This means that you should take the same care handling pet food in the kitchen as you do with human food, with some added safety tips:
- Freeze raw pet food in clearly marked containers until you are ready to use it.
- Defrost pet food in sealed containers in the fridge. Use the lower shelves, to ensure that the pet food doesn’t drip juices onto cooked food or raw vegetables.
- Wash your hands before and after handling pet food.
- If possible, don’t use the same utensils to prepare human food – keep dedicated utensils. If this isn’t possible, use utensils that you can wash in hot soapy water to reduce potential cross contamination. Take care to reduce any risk of contaminating kitchen items like sponges, tea towels and sinks.
- Throw away any food your pet doesn’t eat.
- If you play with your pet after they have eaten, it is more important than ever to wash your hands carefully after play, and to avoid your pet licking your face and mouth.
Children’s sandpits can become contaminated with Campylobacter through animal faeces. Rake the sand regularly and remove any animal faeces. Cover the sandpit when it is not in use.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 606 024 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Your local council health department
- Communicable Disease Section, Department of Health. Victorian Government Tel. 1300 651 160
- Food Safety Hotline Tel. 1300 364 352
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand Tel. (02) 6271 222
- Campylobacter infection, Communicable Disease Section, Department of Health, Victorian Government.
- Pet food safety, 2021, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: