We know that the E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a type of bacterium which live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. The most varieties of E. coli are harmless or they can cause a relatively brief diarrhea. But there are some nasty strains, such as E. coli O15:H7 which can cause severe abdominal cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. You can be exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food, especially undercooked ground beef and raw vegetables. It is known fact healthy adults who have an infection with E. coli O157:H7 usually recover in a period of one week but older adults and young children are having increased risk of developing a life – threatening form of kidney failure which is known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.
E. coli symptoms
The signs and symptoms of the E. coli O157:H7 typically begin 3 or 4 days after exposure to the E. coli but also you can become ill as soon as one day after to more than a week later. Here are some signs and symptoms of E. coli infection:
- Nausea and vomiting in some people
- Abdominal cramping, pain or tenderness
- This condition can range from mild and watery to severe and bloody.
If your diarrhea is bloody, severe or persistent, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
E. coli causes
There are many strains of the E. coli but only a few strains trigger diarrhea. One group of E. coli which is including E. coli O157:H7 is producing powerful toxin which is damaging the lining of the small intestine and this could lead to bloody diarrhea. When you ingest the strain of bacteria, then you can develop an E. coli infection. If you ingest only small amounts, then the E. coli can cause you an infection. You can get the E. coli from swallowing a mouthful of contaminated pool water or eating a slightly undercooked hamburger. Person – to – person contact and contaminated food or water are potential sources of exposure.
- Contaminated food: This is the most common way to get E. coli infection. Below are given some foods which can be source of E. coli:
- Fresh produce: It is known that the runoff from the cattle farms can contaminate fields where the fresh products are grown. There are some vegetable which are particularly vulnerable to this type of contamination, such as lettuce and spinach.
- Ground beef: It is known that when the cattle are slaughtered and processed, then the E. coli which lives in their intestines can get on the meat. We know that the ground beef combines meat from different animals which is increasing the risk of contamination.
- Unpasteurized milk: The E. coli which lives on the milking equipment or on a cow’s udder can get into the raw milk.
- Contaminated water: The feces of people and animals can pollute the ground and surface water, such as lakes, rivers, streams and water used to irrigate crops. The public water system use ozone, ultraviolet light or chlorine but there are some E. coli outbreaks which are linked to contaminated municipal water supplies. One great cause for concern is private wells because they do not often have any disinfecting system. Also the rural water supplies are having highest chances to be contaminated. There are some people who have been infected with this bacteria after they swim in lakes or pools contaminated with feces.
- Personal contact: This type of bacteria can easily travel from one person to another, especially when infected adults and children are not washing their hands properly. Those families who have young children with E. coli infection are having more chances to get them. Also outbreaks can happen among children who are visiting petting zoos and in animal barns at country fairs.
E. coli risk factors
This bacterium can affect all people but there are some factors which increase the risk, such as
- Age: Young children and older adults.
- Time of the year: Most E. coli infections in the United States are happening from June through September.
- Eating certain types of food: Soft cheeses made from raw milk, apple juice or cider, unpasteurized milk and hamburger
- Weakened immune system: People who have weakened immune system due to AIDS or drugs used to treat cancer or prevent the rejection of organ transplants are having more chances of getting E. coli infection.