An E. coli infection is food poisoning caused by some types of E. coli bacteria. The effects of an E. coli Infection can range from mild symptoms to severe, life-threatening illness.
There are many harmless types of E. coli bacteria. However, some types, such as one called O157:H7, make a strong poison that can make you very sick. The bacteria live in the guts of cattle. The bacteria can get into meat when the cattle are killed and the meat is processed. The bacteria may also get into a cow's milk. The bacteria can live in other animals as well. The bacteria can also be spread from manure, which may be used as a fertilizer on or near crops.
Eating meat that has not been cooked long enough to kill E. coli can cause infection. This is especially true for ground beef. You usually cannot tell by smelling or looking at the meat if it is contaminated.
Other possible sources of infection are:
People who are infected have the bacteria in their bowel movements. The bacteria can spread from one person to another if an infected person does not carefully wash their hands after using the bathroom. Adults who care for toddlers in diapers or for children who are not toilet trained are at high risk of getting the infection. These children's playmates may also get the infection.
You might get infected by swallowing unchlorinated or underchlorinated water in swimming pools. You can also get infected by swimming in water that has sewage in it.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms usually begin 2 to 5 days after eating contaminated food, but anywhere from 1 to 7 days is normal. The symptoms may last for several days.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. A sample of your bowel movement will be tested in the lab.
Usually you can get better without medical treatment. Antibiotics are usually not prescribed.
Ask your healthcare provider if medicines to stop the diarrhea are a good idea in your case.
You need to replace the fluids and body chemicals you lose when you have diarrhea or vomiting. Your healthcare provider may advise you to drink plenty of clear fluids or to drink an oral rehydration solution.
Most people get better in 5 to 10 days without medical treatment.
Rarely, a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome can happen. It can cause kidney failure, especially in children. This life-threatening condition is usually treated in an intensive care unit of a hospital, sometimes with blood transfusions and temporary kidney dialysis.
If you have been diagnosed with E. coli infection, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself at home while you recover: