of Article: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/08/articles/food-poisoning-information/campylobacter-the-king-of-foodborne-disease-in-the-us/
It is a wonder that
Campylobacter doesn't get more attention as a public health scourge.
It has long ruled the international kingdom of diarrhea as the most
prevalent foodborne disease worldwide--the United States too--yet the
average person walking down the street has probably never heard of
it. Nonetheless, Campylobacter continues to cause more
illnesses than any of its bacterial brethren.
Campylobacter, like E.
coli, is a family of bacteria; and there are multiple strains of it that
can make you sick. Campylobacter jejuni is the most common. The
illnesses that Campylobacter infections cause are called
Campylobacteriosis. The CDC receives about 10,000 reports a year, but
it is estimated that between two and
four million people are infected annually. The effects of
Campylobacteriosis, like pretty much any foodborne pathogen, can run the
gamut from several days of "flu-like" symptoms to, in extreme
cases, death. CDC monitoring shows that approximately 124 people die
every year from Campylobacteriosis. Moreover, recent
studies have shown that infection by certain bacteria, including
Campylobacter, significantly increases a victim's risk of developing
ongoing, or permanent gastrointestinal problems, including post-infectious
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or even Irritable Bowel Disease (including Crohns).
Finally, It is conservatively estimated that Campylobacteriosis illnesses
cost $1 billion annually for medical care, lost wages, and other
Food is, of course, the
most common vehicle for the spread of Campylobacter, and chicken is the
most common food implicated. But an important fact to understand is
that, even in chickens, Campylobacter is not a muscle-born bug--i.e. the
bacteria lives in the intestines of chicken. Thus, contamination of
chicken meat results, ultimately, from contact with chicken feces.
Soberingly, a study
done in 1998 identified Campylobacter in 63% of more than 1000 chickens
obtained in grocery stores, and other studies have documented Campylobacter
contamination on up to 88 percent of chicken carcasses. Lots of other
studies have been done, but even studies showing relatively "low"
levels of contamination of raw chicken were in the 30%, 40%, or 50%
range. Thus, good food-handling practices are critical when handling
But at this level of
contamination, which really should come as no shock when you consider the
conditions in which chickens are raised and slaughtered, its not realistic
to believe that good food-handling practices alone are sufficient to
prevent infections and outbreaks from happening on a broad basis. It
takes only 500 Campylobacter bacteria to cause illness in a human being,
and millions of the bacteria fit on the head of a pin. A
single basically unnoticeable drop of chicken juice on a child's
plate, or in an old folks' home, might kill somebody. More, or
better, controls in food processing are obviously needed.