When you go out to eat the last thing on your mind is throwing up when you get home. It’s just not a pleasant thing to think about. Unfortunately each day thousands of people are infected with a nasty little bacterium called Campylobacter. It’s found primarily in chickens and in some cases of raw milk consumption.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is It?
Campylobacter is a bacterium found in the feces of chickens, cows, and some other animals. While scientists are not sure of its origins, what is known is it lives in the guts of warm-blooded animals like cats and dogs. It also lives inside of poultry and cattle. When animals are slaughtered for food, if their feces contaminates any part of the food, the food can become the source of an infection.
Where Does It Come From?
The bacterium mostly comes from livestock slaughtered for food, but it can also come from mishandling pet feces. Always wash your hands after cleaning up after your animals.
Symptoms Of Food Poisoning
Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, headache, and fever. However, you may not immediately realize you’re sick, but by the time you get home, you’ve already been infected and the symptoms may begin hours – up to 5 days – after you’ve been poisoned.
Symptoms usually pass within 2 to 11 days. Infections are usually mild, but they can be fatal for very young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
There is no specific treatment for infection, but it’s recommended you drink plenty of fluids to replace what you’ve lost through diarrhea and vomiting. It may not be pleasant, and you may not feel like drinking, but it’s important. It’s also important to replace electrolytes so a trace minerals supplement may be necessary. Making sure you get plenty of rest is also important. You will be weak from the infection, and your body will need time to heal. The more you rest, the faster you will heal. Try not to engage in any activities during this time.
How To Avoid Being Poisoned
Fortunately, this infection is avoidable. It can be killed by heat and by thoroughly cooking food. While washing chicken might seem like a good idea, it can actually spread the bacteria. Make sure you wash your hands, knives, and any surface that comes into contact with raw chicken, as the bug can travel to other surfaces and foods, like salads.
If you’re worried about contamination, many supermarkets offer “bake in the bag” type products so that you don’t even have to touch the raw meat yourself. However, avoiding meat handling isn’t necessary. When it comes to food preparation, all you need to do is follow basic hygiene and sanitary practices Never mix work spaces – keep raw meats away from foods you will eat raw or that are cooked lightly.
What To Do After You’ve Been Poisoned
OK, so you’ve tried your best, but you still managed to get food poisoning. What should you do?
First: Get medical attention immediately. You should have a doctor run a test to confirm presence of Campylobacter, E.coli, Listeria, Norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella, or Vibrio. You may also want the doctor to run something called a Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE). This can help trace where the contaminated food came from.
Second: Make sure you write down exactly what you were eating. If you can save the food or packaging, you can have it tested for the bacteria to prove you were poisoned.
Third: Save as much of the food and packaging as you can. Document your illness. Make note of when you first noticed something was wrong, when you got sick, times, dates, places, etc.
Fourth: Keep your restaurant or vendor receipt to prove that you ate at the establishment or that you purchased food there.
Fifth: Try to get witnesses to sign a statement.
Without proof you ate at the establishment when the tainted food was served, and without showing proof the contamination originated at the establishment, and you suffered as a result, you have no case.
If you do decide to speak with a lawyer, know that your case is never guaranteed. The lawyer will tell you what your options are and the likelihood of your prevailing in court.
You may have a strong, moderate, or weak case depending on the circumstances, the facts you’re able to gather, and the lab tests and what they show.
Severity of your illness will also be taken into account, but you must prove you were damaged in some way. Damages can include loss of wages, medical and therapy bills, out of pocket expenses for medications, costs of travel to and from treatment, etc., and your pain and suffering.
Judge Anthony P. Calisi (ret.) has devoted over 30 years of his life to helping others. A judge and chief felony prosecutor from Collin County, Texas, he likes to share his insights and experiences online.