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Campylobacter – Get Used To The Name


By James Donahue

August 2004


A food-related bacterial illness called Campylobacteriosis has been linked this summer to a mystery illness that has stricken nearly 700 summer visitors to South Bass Island at Lake Erie’s Put-In-Bay resorts.


Early investigations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health show salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus are among the culprits causing gastrointestinal distress in 510 victims with another 168 more cases under suspicion.


All of the victims are reporting nausea, fever and vomiting, health officials say.


While not a familiar word to most people’s vocabulary, Campylobacter is known to medical personnel as one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. An estimated 1 million people are struck with it every year, and it is known to occur more often during summer months.


Campylobacteriosis is taken seriously by health officials when it occurs because it can spread to the bloodstream and cause a serious life-threatening infection. It can bring paralysis and death.


Most people who come in contact with this bug develop symptoms within two to five days. They include diarrhea, cramps and fever. The diarrhea can sometimes be bloody and be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The victim usually remains ill for as long as a week.


Chickens and other birds are known to be common carriers of Campylobacter. Also the bacteria can be spread from person to person, or from animal to person. Thus handling infected uncooked meat, and especially eating improperly cooked chicken can lead to infection.


The disease usually always occurs in isolated cases and rarely, if ever, strikes large numbers of people at the same time. This is what has Ohio health officials puzzled. They are trying to determine how so many visitors to a single resort island could become infected at the same time?