Progress in Campylobacter Prevention
By DR. Sean Altekruse
In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were 2.5 million cases of Campylobacter infection in the people each year. Illnesses typically involve self-limiting diarrhea, cramps and fever. Rarely, fatal infections and complications such as arthritis are also reported. After major a decline in illnesses over the past decade, the 2006 incidence remains slightly above the national goal for 2010.1
Risk factors for illness include handling and eating poultry, and especially commercially prepared poultry. Red meat products also can be a source of Campylobacter infection, along with drinking unpasteurized milk and untreated water.
Contact with pet dogs and cats account for about five percent of human illness. Young children may be at particular risk. Occupational risk factors include farm residence, and poultry occupations. Foreign travel is another common risk factor, as is eating at restaurants.
Campylobacter is found in many but not all broiler flocks. Risk factors for flock colonization include caretaker contact with other animals, stress and disease. Campylobacter are also found in cattle, particularly calves.
Efforts to control Campylobacter at the farm include begin with biosecurity. Competitive exclusion products and some feed formulations may also reduce poultry and livestock colonization with campylobacters. Interventions around depopulation include feed withdrawal, minimizing stress and transport-crate sanitation.
Sanitary slaughter offers an important opportunity for Campylobacter control. For example, campylobacters are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals in wash and chill water. Hard freezing of poultry meat is also reported to reduce Campylobacter levels.
Food handling is another critical point for control of Campylobacter. Foodservice training should emphasize disinfection of food contact surfaces, utensils and employee hands following contact with raw meat and poultry. Raw meat and poultry should be stored away from foods that are ready to serve. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature that kills Campylobacter (180 F).
Hand washing after animal contact is a good habit in the home and at work. It is particularly important for children to wash their hands after animal contact. Additional infection-control precautions are needed for juvenile or sick animals.
Since 1996, progress has been made in preventing Campylobacter illness, however, a last push is needed to meet the 2010 national goal for Campylobacter. A combination of efforts is needed to address animal contact and food handling on farms, in slaughter plants and in homes.
1. CDC. Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food — 10 States, 2006. MMWR 2007 56;336-339. Web: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5614a4.htm . Accessed May 18, 2007