The Wyoming Department of Health is reporting a sharp increase statewide in potentially dangerous human Campylobacter bacterial infections this summer.
The department has identified 29 cases of Campylobacter infections in Wyoming since June 1, a fourfold increase compared to historical data for the same time period.
At least six people have been hospitalized, according to a media release from the department. Nearly three-quarters of the patients are male.
“While the increase in these infections appears to be sporadic with no single common source, it’s clear that animal-related illness is at least partially driving the increase,” said Kelly Weidenbach, epidemiologist with the department’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program.
Campylobacter infection is one of the most common causes of bacterial diarrhea in the United States. Infected people typically develop diarrhea (sometimes bloody), nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, abdominal pain and fever for about one week.
In rare cases people may develop serious complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. The syndrome occurs when the immune system is triggered to attack the body’s nerves. It can lead to paralysis and usually requires intensive care.
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Among patients interviewed by public health officials to date, exposure to animals, especially cattle and dogs, has been common.
“In many cases, the animals were noted to be ill with diarrhea when the person had contact with them,” Weidenbach said. “Several have been ranchers or individuals who recently attended a cattle branding and who were accidentally exposed to fecal material.”
Recommended precautions include:
Washing hands with soap and water before eating or other hand-to-mouth contact. If ill with diarrhea, wash hands frequently. Those ill with diarrhea who handle food for other people, work in a child care setting or work as a health care provider with direct patient contact should stay out of work until at least 48 hours after the last bout of diarrhea or vomiting.
Those who work or volunteer where they have contact with animals should wear gloves while working and wash hands before moving to a different activity. Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk or products made from unpasteurized milk.