E. Coli Intestinal Infection
E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a common
bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. There
few types (strains) of E. coli. Most are harmless. But some types are harmful. They
cause severe illness because they make a toxin called Shiga. These types of E. coli
called STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli). The most common STEC in the U.S. is a
E. coli called O157. In some cases STEC can cause life-threatening symptoms such as
of kidney failure (hemolytic uremic syndrome).
You can be infected with E. coli by swallowing food or water that have
the bacteria. Contamination occurs when food or water comes in contact with stool
infected humans and animals. The foods that have been affected in E. coli outbreaks
- Meat (especially ground beef)
- Unpasteurized milk and juice
Petting zoos and county fairs are
places where people can become easily infected with E. coli. That's because live animals
and human food are together in one place.
Common symptoms of E. coli
Symptoms often appear
2 to 5 days after
having the contaminated food or drink. They include:
Watery or bloody diarrhea
Severe belly (abdominal)
Upset stomach (nausea) and
Fever, often less than 101°F
Diagnosing E. coli infection
A sample of your stool is checked
for the presence of E. coli.
Treating E. coli infection
E. coli infection generally gets
better without treatment in
8 to10 days. Antibiotic medicines are often not
prescribed. Don't take antidiarrheal medicine unless your healthcare provider tells
to. It can make the illness last longer and decrease your body’s ability to get rid
E. coli. While you are recovering, rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent
dehydration. Water, clear soups, and electrolyte solutions are good choices. You can
electrolyte solutions at the grocery store or pharmacy. Don't drink alcohol, coffee,
tea, and milk. These can irritate your intestines and make symptoms worse.
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider if you have:
No improvement in symptoms
Blood in stool
Severe belly pain
Signs of fluid loss
(dehydration) such as a dry and sticky mouth, decreased urine output, very dark
urine, and confusion
Feeling very tired
Preventing E. coli infection
Follow these steps to lower the
chances of getting or passing E. coli infection:
Wash your hands with soap and
warm water often. Do this before making meals, and after going to the bathroom,
changing diapers, or handling pets. Teach your child to do the same.
Cook meats to a safe
temperature to kill E. coli bacteria that may be present in the meat. Use a food
thermometer when cooking. Follow these temperature guidelines:
Cook ground meat (beef,
veal, pork, lamb) and meat mixtures to at least 160°F (71°C).
Cook fresh beef, veal,
lamb, and pork (steak, roasts, chops) to at least 145°F (63°C).
Cook poultry (including
ground turkey and chicken) to an internal temperature of at least 165°F
Wash or peel fruits and
vegetables before eating.
Drink only pasteurized milk,
juices, and ciders.
Use one cutting board just
for uncooked meat. Wash cutting boards and utensils with hot water and soap after
each use. Clean kitchen counters with hot water and soap after each use.
Don’t swallow or drink water
from pools, lakes, streams, or rivers. When camping, or traveling outside the
country, don't drink or cook with water unless you know it’s safe. If you need to
drink or cook with water you are not sure of, boil it for at least
before using it. Or bring a portable water filter specially made to remove
bacteria. Or bring special drinking water purification tablets that can kill
bacteria in drinking water.
If you drink well water, have
it tested once a year for germs, including E. coli.
When visiting petting zoos or
county fairs, bring plenty of hand sanitizer. In addition to using hand-washing
facilities, use the hand gel often. Use it especially after touching animals. And
before and after handling food. Help young children clean their hands well.