There are many types of E. Coli and most of them are harmless. However, some can cause bloody diarrhea, severe anemia or kidney failure, which can lead to death.
Symptoms of E. Coli include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. More severe cases can lead to dehydration or even kidney failure. People with weakened immune systems; pregnant women, young children, and the elderly are at increased risks for developing these complications. Most intestinal infections are caused by contaminated food or water. Proper food preparation and good hygiene can greatly decrease the chances of developing an intestinal infection.
E. Coli can spread when an infected person does not wash their hands after a bowel movement. The bacteria is spread when that person touches someone or something else, like food. Nursing homes, schools, and child-care facilities are particularly vulnerable.
The duration of the illness is 5-10 days, and most people will be better in 6-8 days. If HUS, a condition that affects the blood and blood vessels, recovery takes about one week.
A person can prevent E. Coli by avoiding high risk foods, especially under-cooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, or alfalfa sprouts. Use a food thermometer to make sure ground beef has reached a safe internal temperature of 160º F. Further precautions should include washing hands before preparing food, after diapering infants, and after contact with cows, sheep, or goats.
Written by Tynesia Cabil
Edited by Jeanette Smith
WebMD: E. Coli Infection From Food or Water – Topic Overview
FoodSafety: E. coli
Health Line: E. coli Infection
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Prof. Dr. Rohde, HZI Braunschweig for ZEISS Microscopy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License