If you’re having stomach problems, don’t let it go too long…

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

Campylobacter is a pretty nasty bacterial disease that has been on the rise recently.

Sommer said, “My daughter, and the reason why I bring this up is my daughter is 18 years old. She’s actually had some stomach issues for quite some time and they have progressively gotten worse over the last probably six months or so. So she had symptoms of upset stomach, diarrhea, and then she kind of freaked out because she had a little bit of bleeding. So, of course, I took her to see Dr. Smith and she’s like, really, I think we need to do a colonoscopy. So this is just where colonoscopies aren’t just for screening for colon cancer. It’s where they become a diagnostic tool to rule out other types of inflammatory bowel disease, which we talked about before, and one of the culprits is Campylobacter. It’s the bacteria. It can be from a food contaminant and it’s not necessarily always know where it came from and it can rear its ugly head and it affects people differently. Some people will get violently ill from it and I know that from in the past with our patients or it can kind of be like a progressive thing, where it increasingly gets worse over time.”

A person can contract campylobacter in a number of ways.

Sommer said, “Chickens, turkeys, cows, other animals. They won’t show signs of it, but they can carry it. It’s been carried in the intestines, liver and other organs of animals and can be transferred to other parts when the animal is slaughtered. So it goes back to making sure you’re cooking your food to the temperature that it’s supposed to be because heat will kill the bacteria. So it’s really important when you’re preparing foods that you follow the directions of, especially with chicken and pork, all meats, but especially chicken because that can also carry salmonella. So there’s lots and lots of reasons. But even fruits and vegetables can come in contact with it with soil or water containing the fecal material from cows, birds and animals. So it’s important that you wash your fruits and veggies.”

Campylobacter is found in 24% of raw chicken bought at retailers. Just a single drop of juice from raw chicken can contain enough bacteria to infect someone.

Sommer said, “Make sure when you’re handling raw chicken and meat, you wash your hands, too. A lot of times people rinse the chicken, and then they’ll cook it. Besides cooking, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water after. Don’t put your fingers in your mouth or whatever. Because just a small drop can cause a really big problem.”

A lab test can determine if you have campylobacter.

Sommer said, “The reason why she got the colonoscopy is because there was bleeding and there were other things starting to go on. So that opens you up to a whole other door of potential problems. But you don’t necessarily need a colonoscopy. We can do stool studies, as an outpatient for milder symptoms, or maybe you’re just having diarrhea, there’s nothing else. A lot of times it’s diagnosed that way. There are other diagnostic tests available outside of a colonoscopy, however, if left untreated, and it goes to more serious symptoms affecting your daily life, then you might end up with a colonoscopy.”

Antibiotic treatment may be required, but some people can fight it off on their own – but don’t wait too long.

Sommer said, “A lot of people think, oh, it’s just a bug. It’ll go away and come and go. A lot of times it’s not consistent where you think it’s getting better and then it rears its ugly head and that in the case of my daughter some days she was good, some days she was bad. Then it kind of escalated to where it was more bad than good. Now she’s getting treated and life will be better.”

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