Escherichia coli Infection
( E. coli Infection, Escherichia coli O157:H7)
Escherichia coli ( E. coli ) infection is caused by a bacteria. It is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea. This type of infection may need medical attention. Contact your doctor if you think you may have it.
This infection is caused by some types of the E. coli bacterium. Most E. coli infections are caused by:
- Eating undercooked beef, especially ground beef
- Drinking contaminated water
- Drinking unpasteurized milk
- Working with cattle
Digestive Pathway Through Stomach and Intestines
The following factors increase your chance of developing E. coli infection:
- Age: children and older people
- People with another illness
- Working with cattle
- Living in northern states
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Stool culture—to find out if you have E. coli O157:H7 in your intestines
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:
Fluid Replacement and Monitoring
Most people will get better in 5-10 days. They rarely need a specific treatment. Avoid medicine that stops diarrhea. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Fluids through an IV line may be needed in cases of severe dehydration .
Treatment for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)
- Pallor, tiredness, and irritability
- Small, unexplained bruises, or bleeding from the nose or mouth—caused by problems in the body’s clotting mechanism
If you are diagnosed with an E. coli infection, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help prevent E. coli infection:
- Cook all ground beef and hamburger thoroughly.
- Avoid eating undercooked hamburger or other ground beef.
- Keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they are exposed to raw meat.
- Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, and cider.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Drink municipal water that has been treated with a disinfectant (eg, chlorine).
- Wash hands after bowel movements and after changing soiled diapers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Public Health Agency of Canada
E. coli infection. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/242.xml . Accessed February 28, 2007.
Escherichia coli O157:H7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/escherichiacoli_g.htm . Accessed February 28, 2007.
Last reviewed February 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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