The E. coli or Escherichia coli infection causes food borne illnesses. E. coli strains are harmless in nature found in the human intestinal tracts and in warm blooded animals as well. The strains that cause disease are the frequent cause of urinary-genital tract and intestinal infections. These strains often cause diarrheal disease. The dangerous type is called as “enterohemorrhagic E. coli” or EHEC. The EHEC causes diarrhea that is bloody which leads to failure of the kidney in children especially to those who have weak immune systems.
In 1982, the first dangerous strain was discovered by scientists in the United States. This strain is 0157:H7, which indicates the chemical compounds found in the surface of the bacteria. This type of bacteria produces powerful intestines that can severely damage the intestine’s linings.
Other types include 0111:H8 and 026:H11 are also found to cause disease in humans. Main sources of 0157:H7 are cattles but other wild animals as well can also harbour these bacteria.
· The Enterotoxigenic E.coli (ETEC) produces toxins identical to cholera toxins which cause diarrhea. These strains are responsible for the common traveller’s diarrhea because it contaminates the water and foods in most developing countries.
· The Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) is related to persistent diarrhea which last for two weeks or more. It is transmitted through contaminated water or having a contact with an infected animal which are common in developing countries.
The toxins of E. coli bacteria are transmitted to humans by:
· Raw or undercooked hamburgers
· Alfalfa sprouts
· Apple juice, apple cider and in unpasteurized milk
· Contaminated water from wells
· Swimming pools that are contaminated
· Contaminated lakes and oceans
Signs and Symptoms
E. coli infection symptoms usually begin to appear in two to five days after exposure and the symptoms last for eight days. Common symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 infection include nausea, very bloody or watery diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, low grade fever and fatigue
To check if you’re infected with E. coli, a stool exam is performed. E. coli are found in stools.
Treatment and Prevention
A person infected with 0157:H7 E. coli will recover in five to ten days without treatment. Antibiotics are not helpful and taking antidiarrheal drugs are not recommended by medical experts.
To prevent E. coli infection, one should only eat properly cooked beef and other beef products. Ground beef patties should be cooked in temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Juices that are unpasteurized should be avoided and one should only drink pasteurized milks. Fresh vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly before eating it raw.
E. coli Complications
There are various complications that E. coli bacteria can bring but the most serious one is called Hemolytic uremic syndrome. It is characterized by red blood cell and blood vessel wall lining damage. In severe cases, kidney failure may happen if left untreated. A person having diarrhea especially a bloody one in several days should not be left untreated to prevent this kind of complication.