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Campylobacter is a little known foodborne bacteria similar to Salmonella and E. Coli which causes gastroenteritis (gastro).

Campylobacter infection is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness in Australia with approximately 230,000 cases reported every year.

Signs and Symptoms: 

Most people with campylobacter will experience one of the following symptoms within 2 to 5 days of initial infection:

  • diarrhoea (this may contain blood or mucous)
  • stomach cramps
  • fever
  • nausea and vomiting.

Campylobacter infections can typically last between 2 to 10 days.


Campylobacter is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food, water or unpasteurised milk.

The most common way to get campylobacter poisoning is by handling raw chicken or eating undercooked meat—75% of reported infections are from contaminated food.


Talk to your doctor if you think you have campylobacter infection. Your doctor may arrange a faecal sample for testing to confirm the infection.

Most people will recover from campylobacter with rest and fluids. In severe or complicated cases your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the duration of the illness.

If the results of the tests show that you have campylobacter infection the doctor will provide advice and appropriate treatment.


Campylobacter can be spread easily and just a few bacteria could cause illness. The three common ways to be infected by campylobacter bacteria are:

Food and liquids
Campylobacter is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food, water or unpasteurised milk.

Cross contamination
Cross-contamination is the spread of bacteria from something that is contaminated with bacteria, to something that is not.

Campylobacter can spread when uncooked foods contaminated with the bacteria cross-contaminate ready-to-eat foods, either directly or by utensils and equipment used to prepare raw foods (for example knives, chopping boards, etc.)

Person to person
People with campylobacter will have the bacteria in their faeces. If these people do not wash their hands after going to the toilet, then their contaminated hands can spread the bacteria to surfaces touched by other people.

Contaminated hands can also spread the bacteria to food which may be eaten by other people.


The risk of becoming infected with campylobacter can be minimised by safe food storage and preparation including:

  • Prevent cross contamination by washing tongs, knives and cutting boards between using them for raw foods and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Don’t wash chicken before cooking as this will spread campylobacter around your kitchen by splashing.
  • Cook chicken thoroughly so it is steaming hot, has no pink meat and the juices run clear.
  • Store food below 5 degrees Celsius or above 60 degrees Celsius to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Other resources: 
Help and assistance: 

For further information on campylobacter please contact:

  • your local doctor
  • community health centre
  • nearest population health unit
  • 13 HEALTH.


If you have a concern about a food product or a food business, you can make a complaint or seek advice from the relevant government agency. Visit the Queensland Government - Report a food safety issue.

If you are in a emergency situation, call 000


  • Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call. 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
13/01/2016 1:02:57 PM

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