OBJECTIVE: To determine the cause and characteristics of illness of a Campylobacter jejuni outbreak in Denmark in 1995--96. METHODS: A retrospective follow-up study was designed for culture-confirmed cases and for residents without a bacteriologic diagnosis. Stored clinical and environmental isolates were analyzed by serotyping and genotyping with restriction endonuclease analysis (REA), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and ribotyping. RESULTS: Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from 110 residents and visitors to the area. However, an estimate based on a telephone survey indicated that some 2400 people were affected by the outbreak. Water samples obtained from the community waterworks contained Campylobacter jejuni serotype O2, the same serotype as in all but one of the 30 stored isolates from the outbreak. The water and clinical isolates also showed the same DNA profile, except for the single strain showing the distinct serotype. The contamination of the water supply was traced back to contamination of ground water due to a break in a sewage pipe. CONCLUSIONS: A retrospective and demographic epidemiologic investigation of both culture-confirmed and non-culture-confirmed cases in the town combined with typing of the isolates was crucial in defining the extent and cause of the outbreak.