Emergencies/Illness Health Issues

Campylobacter Jejuni

Campylobacter jejuni is a bacteria found in chickens that usually doesn’t cause illness in them, but can spread to people via live birds or contaminated meat and make us sick. You don’t hear much about it, but it’s one of the leading causes of food poisoning in people from eating raw or under cooked poultry. Most of us are more familiar with Salmonella or E.coli, but I’ve been watching with interest as several people have posted in Facebook chicken groups about getting infected with Campylobacter by their flock.

Since C. jejuni doesn’t generally cause problems for our birds I’ll focus on what we can do to prevent ourselves from getting it. That said, there is another form of the bacteria, Campylobacter hepaticus, that’s associated with spotty liver disease in chickens, which I will deal with in another post.

Transmission

  • It has been found in the reproductive tracts of both roosters and hens making vertical transmission (to their offspring via the egg) possible.
  • Can be transmitted by rats, mice, wild birds, darkling beetles and flies.
  • Spread from touching chicken poop and live chickens; fomites (transport cages, coops, bedding, feeders, waterers and the environment where chickens live); contaminated clothing and footwear – then by touching inside or around your mouth.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths, less likely to wash their hands after handling birds and their immune systems are not as robust as adults.
  • It is important to wash your hands immediately after touching poultry or anything in the area where they live, as the germs on your hands can easily spread to other people or things.

Symptoms In People

  • mild – severe or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • cramps
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle pain

Treatment

  • Stay hydrated (water  & electrolytes)
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed
  • Severe cases may require hospitalization
  • Recovery time: 7- 10 days

Prevention

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching birds or anything in the area where they live.
  • Avoid touching your mouth before washing your hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Adults should supervise proper hand washing for children.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live.
  • Clean equipment such as feeders and waterers outside your house (e.g. not in your sink).
  • If you are doing chicken first aid or have birds in your house be careful to sanitize all surfaces that might be contaminated.
  • When cooking chicken practice food safe guidelines and make sure to thoroughly cook poultry to kill the bacteria.

Credit: Grumpy Chickens; Minnesota Department of Health; Merck Vet Manual; Poultry DVM Featured Photo: Focused Collection

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