E. Coli Infection

by Mary Gallagher, RN, MSN, CCRN

Aug 1, 2014
2014

Escherichia coli bacteria are commonly found in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Although most types of E. coli are harmless, certain strains cause severe illness directly or by producing toxins. Some cause food poisoning and diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory infections and other illnesses. E. coli enteritis, bacterial inflammation of the small intestine, is the most common cause of travelers’ diarrhea. A few strains such as E. coli O157:H7 release toxins that cause acute food poisoning with severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

E. coli bacteria get into food in many ways. During processing, meat and poultry can come into contact with normal bacteria from an animal’s intestines. Water used for growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste. Food may be handled unsafely during transport or during storage or preparation in grocery stores, restaurants and homes.

People get food poisoning after eating or drinking food prepared by someone who did not wash their hands or who used unclean or cross-contaminated utensils, cutting boards or other tools. It can occur if dairy products or food containing mayonnaise are left out of the refrigerator too long, if frozen or refrigerated foods are not stored at the proper temperatures or not properly reheated, or if raw produce is not washed well. Bacteria can contaminate “risky” foods: undercooked eggs and meats; raw fish, especially oysters; non-pasteurized dairy products and juices; and water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been treated.

Although not common, E. coli can spread person to person when someone does not wash their hands after a bowel movement and then touches objects or someone else’s hands. People at increased risk for infection are the very young and the very old, individuals with weakened immune systems and those who eat riskier foods.

Symptoms usually appear 24–72 hours after exposure. The most common symptom is sudden, severe diarrhea that is often bloody. Other symptoms include fever, gas, loss of appetite, stomach cramping and vomiting. Rare symptoms include easily occurring bruising, pale skin, red or bloody urine and reduced amount of urine.

To diagnose an E. coli infection, a health care provider performs a physical exam and may request a stool culture. Healthy adults usually recover from E. coli O157: H7 within a week. Young children and older adults can develop a life-threatening kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.

The goal of treatment is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration, including replacing fluids and electrolytes, managing diarrhea, controlling nausea and vomiting and getting rest. Most otherwise healthy adults receive care at home. Antibiotics are usually not administered. Use anti-diarrheal medications only if approved by your physician. If symptoms are severe, older adults and children may require hospitalization to receive intravenous fluids and electrolytes and supportive care.

E. coli prevention

Lessen your chances of E. coli infection by following important measures. Be sure all family members wash their hands often, especially before preparing meals and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets. Use clean, running, warm water and soap and lather the fronts and backs, between fingers and under nails; scrub for 20 seconds, rinse well and towel- or air-dry them.

Cook meats to a safe temperature to kill E. coli, using a meat thermometer. Cook ground meat and meat mixtures to at least 160 degrees; fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork to at least 145 degrees; and poultry to at least 165 degrees.

Use separate cutting boards for produce and uncooked, rare or cooked meats. Wash all utensils and kitchen counters with hot water and soap after each use. Never place cooked meat on a plate that contained raw meat.

Wash fruit and vegetables before eating, peeling, cutting or cooking, whether they are grown conventionally or organically at home or purchased from a market. Washing produce with soap or detergent or commercial produce washes is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. Remove bacteria, dirt or sand by scrubbing firm produce such as potatoes, cucumbers and melons with a brush under running water. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Wash your hands before and after handling.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Store leftovers in the refrigerator right away. Divide foods in small, shallow pans to cool faster. Discard food that has been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Drink only pasteurized milk, juice and ciders; pasteurization uses high temperatures to kill bacterial growth.

If you drink well water, have it tested yearly for bacteria. Do not swallow or drink water from pools, lakes, streams or rivers. When camping or traveling, avoid drinking or cooking with water unless you know it is safe. If you are unsure, boil it for at least 60 seconds or use water purification tablets or a portable water filter designed to remove bacteria. When traveling to third-world countries, drink bottled water.

At petting zoos, country fairs or farms, use hand sanitizer often, especially after touching animals and before and after handling food. Help young children clean their hands. Wash your hands when encountering animals in your own backyard or neighborhood.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Daily
Sep 20, 2019

Catch Autumn at the Arboretum in Dallas

Attend one of the most acclaimed fall events, Autumn at the Arboretum, in Dallas. In its 14th year, the annual event is known as one of the best pumpkin festivals in the country, with its creative displays featuring more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. The event takes place at Dallas Arboretum, Sept. 21 –Oct. 31. Alongside thousands of pumpkins, guests glimpse 150,000 autumn flowers across the 66-acre space.

TAP Air Portugal Adds 15 Flights Each Week From U.S., Canada

TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020,  a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.

Feature
Sep 19, 2019

Wilderness Safaris Reopens Jao Camp

Following a complete renovation, Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp reopened in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

News
Sep 19, 2019

Best U.S. Cities for Oktoberfest Celebrations

WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.

The Island of the Knights

Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.

Feature
Sep 19, 2019

Qantas Will Start Using a Dreamliner on Santiago–Sydney Route

Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.

eFlyer News
Sep 18, 2019

New Luxury Hotel Set to Open in China

A new hotel is slated to open in the capital of China’s Guangxi Province.

To New Heights

United Airlines announces a number of new routes.

eFlyer News
Sep 18, 2019

LOT Polish Airlines Adds New Route to Delhi

LOT Polish Airlines is offering travellers more options for travel between Asia and Europe.