Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a varied group of bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts of people and animals. Young children and older adults are more likely to experience symptoms from an E. coli infection, as well as those with weakened immune systems. Diagnosis of an E. coli infection is typically confirmed with a laboratory test of a stool sample.

Causes of E. coli

Eating food or drinking fluid that is contaminated with the bacteria is the most common cause of the infection. Other causes of E.coli may include the following:

  • Contaminated ground beef
  • Unpasteurized milk or juice
  • Contaminated fresh produce
  • Restaurant meal
  • Contaminated water
  • Person-to-person contact

Symptoms of E. coli

There are hundreds of strains of E. coli, many of which are harmless and do not trigger any symptoms. Some strains of E.coli may result in the following symptoms as soon as a day after exposure to the bacteria:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Upper respiratory illness

Treatment of E. coli

There is no cure currently available for E. coli. The most effective treatment for an infection with E. coli is to rest and drink plenty of fluids as the toxins pass through the body. Most patients fully recover from an E. coli infection with no complications, although it is important to see your doctor to ensure a healthy recovery.

Prevention of E. coli

Preventing an infection with E. coli may be accomplished with some of the following methods:

  • Avoiding foods that are high risk for contamination
  • Making sure that ground beef is cooked as well-done
  • Drinking pasteurized milk and juices
  • Washing produce carefully
  • Washing hands before preparing food
  • Washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • Cleaning food preparation surfaces

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