Escherichia coli Infection
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition
Escherichia coli ( E. coli ) infection is caused by a bacteria. It is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea.

Causes
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

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors
This condition is more common in children and older adults.

Factors that increase your chance of developing E. coli infection include:

  • People with another illness
  • Working with cattle
  • Living in northern states
Symptoms
Symptoms of E. coli infection include:

Diagnosis
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your waste material may be tested. This can be done with a stool culture.

Treatment
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 medication 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)
HUS is a life-threatening condition. It occurs in some people with E. coli infection. HUS may need to be treated with blood transfusions and kidney dialysis . Symptoms may include:

  • Pale complexion, tiredness, and irritability
  • Small, unexplained bruises, or bleeding from the nose or mouth—caused by problems in the body’s clotting mechanism
Kidney Dialysis

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Prevention
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.
  • Wash hands after bowel movements and after changing soiled diapers.



RESOURCES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

CANADIAN RESOURCES:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Public Health Agency of Canada

References:
EColi infection. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/ecoli-infection.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

E. coli (Escherichia coli) . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/. Updated December 1, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

Frequently asked questions about Escherichia Coli infection. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website. Available at: http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/factsheets/f_ecoli.pdf. Accessed December 18, 2014.

Last Reviewed December 2014



Health Information Library content is provided by EBSCO Publishing, fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

 

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

 

To send comments or feedback to EBSCO's Editorial Team regarding the content please e-mail healthlibrarysupport@ebscohost.com.