Campylobacter and Drinking Water from Private Wells

What is campylobacteriosis?

Campylobacteriosis (CAMP-eh-loe-back-tear-ee-O-sis) is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Campylobacter. There are different species of Campylobacter, and Campylobacter jejuni is the species that causes most human illness. It is also the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the United States. Campylobacteriosis affects about 2 million people (almost 1% of the population) every year.

For more information about campylobacteriosis and treatment, please visit CDC’s campylobiosisacter page.

Where and how does Campylobacter get into drinking water?

Campylobacter is found in every part of the United States and throughout the world. Millions of germs can be released in a bowel movement from an infected person or animal. Campylobacter may be found in water sources such as private wells that have been contaminated with feces from infected people or animals. Human or animal waste can enter the water through different ways, including sewage overflows, sewage systems that are not working properly, polluted storm water runoff, and agricultural runoff. Wells may be more vulnerable to such contamination after flooding, particularly if the wells are shallow, have been dug or bored, or have been submerged by floodwater for long periods of time. Campylobacteriosis occurs much more often in the summer than in the winter.

How can I find out whether there is Campylobacter in my drinking water?

If you suspect a problem and your drinking water comes from a private well, you may contact your state certification officerexternal icon for a list of laboratories in your area that will perform tests on drinking water for a fee.

How do I remove Campylobacter from my drinking water?

To kill or inactivate Campylobacter, bring your water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes) Water should then be allowed to cool, stored in a clean sanitized container with a tight cover, and refrigerated. Currently, there is no filter certified to remove the germ from water. This issue is being studied.

You may also disinfect your well; contact your local health department for recommended procedures. Remember to have your well water tested regularly after disinfection to make sure the problem does not recur.