Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria live in the lower intestine of people and warm-blooded organism. Most E. coli are basically harmless, or would case short diarrhea which mostly occur to tourists in developing countries.
Yet, some strains, for instance E. coli O157: H7, would cause serious, bloody diarrhea with abdominal cramps, followed by other severe organ system damage, including kidney failure. Contaminated water of food, in particularly raw vegetables and rare ground beef are possibly sources of E. coli.
Generally, healthy adults recover from E. coli O157:H7 infection within a week, but children and older adults might develop a dangerous form of kidney failure, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infections usually start three or four day after being exposed to the bacteria. These symptoms include diarrhea (from mild to severe and bloody), abdominal cramping and pain, nausea and vomiting in some cases.
You should seek medical attention if you observe these symptoms shortly after eating fresh vegetables or rare ground beef, if your diarrhea is severe or bloody.
A large number of E. coli infections, including O157:H7, clear up without any treatment. Not all E. coli strains cause diarrhea; one group generates a strong toxin attacking the lining of the small intestine, causing bloody diarrhea.
E. coli infection occur when the bacteria is accidentally ingested from exposure to contaminated food or water and also person-to-person contact.
- Ground beef. While cattle are slaughtered and processed, the bacteria in their intestines might get on the meat. As ground beef is a combination of meat from several different animals, the risk of contamination is higher. Ground beef is frequently contaminated not just on the surface but throughout the entire mixture, but cooking is most likely to kill the bacteria.
- Not pasteurized milk. The bacteria on a cow’s udder or on the milking device might contaminate the raw milk.
- Fresh produce. Animals from cattle farms are a possible source of contamination of the filed where fresh produce is grown. Spinach and lettuce are especially exposed to such combination.
Animal and human feces could contaminate surface and ground water, such as streams, rivers, lakes and water user for crop irrigation. Drinking or accidentally swallowing untreated or polluted water from streams and lakes might cause E. coli infection.
E. coli bacteria easily spread from person to person, in particular when infected adults and children fail to adequately wash their hands. Similarly, restaurant workers not washing their hands when using the bathroom can pass on E. coli bacteria to food.
Although, anyone can be affected by E. coli, some people are predisposed to develop problems.
Healthy adults generally recover from E. coli infections within a week, while others might develop a dangerous form of kidney failure, hemolytic uremic syndrome.
For E. coli O157:H7 infections there are no treatments and the best option is plenty of rest and drink of enough fluids to prevent dehydration and fatigue. There is no current vaccine or medication to protect you from E. coli illness, although researches are conducted for potential vaccines.