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The Douglas County Health Department has recorded 40 confirmed cases of campylobacter infection, the most common bacterial cause of diarrhea, so far this year. That compares to approximately 25 cases by the same time the past two years. In 35 percent of cases, patients were treated in an emergency department and 12 percent required hospitalization.

Investigations showed 85 percent of those who became ill had eaten poultry products and 32 percent had handled raw meat. All of the cases have involved meals prepared in the home. No one reported eating undercooked meat or drinking raw, unpasteurized milk. Consuming raw, unpasteurized milk from a farm has been a risk factor in surrounding rural areas. Cooked food appears to have been contaminated when it was reintroduced to plates that previously held the meat which had dripped juice on the plate.

“This illness can be prevented with just a little extra precaution,” Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said. “The cases range in age from less than one year to over 80 years of age.”

Campylobacter is carried in the intestinal tracts of poultry and other animals and is commonly found on raw meat. You can avoid contaminating the food you cook by following safe food-handling practices and the simple phrase: “Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.”  

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
  • Try using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in using the hot cycle.
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery cart and refrigerator.
  • Try to use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Always wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that you just used for raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry. To be safe, cook chicken to 165 degrees. Most meat should reach at least 160 degrees.
  • Refrigerate food within two hours of serving or within one hour if temperatures are above 90.

“Remember, just one drop of juice from a raw chicken can make a person sick,” Dr. Pour said. “To be safe, remember: ‘Clean, separate, cook, chill.’”