Also read: After toddler’s death, Poland dad warns others of E. coli danger

The Basics

* E.coli, full name Escherichia coli, is a bacteria found mostly in the intestines of humans and animals.

* Most strains are harmless and are an important part of a healthy intestinal tract.

* There are some specific strains that are pathogenic, which means they can make you sick.

* These strains can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

* HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) is when an infection becomes more severe, resulting in kidney failure.

Q: How can I get it?

A: The most common way to contract pathogenic E.coli is when contaminated feces enter the mouth, which can actually happen in a lot of different ways. Some of these are: swallowing lake water, contact with animals and the environment at a petting zoo and, most commonly, eating under-cooked food that is infected. 

Q: Who is most susceptible? 

A: People of any age can contract E.coli, but most cases of HUS occur in people with compromised immune systems, usually children younger than five and seniors.

Q: What are the most common symptoms?

A: Severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.

Q: What are treatment options?

A: Drink lots of water and rest. Taking antibiotics and antidiarrheal medicine can make the infection worse. Most cases clear up within five-10 days.

Q: How prevalent is pathogenic E.coli?

A: There are an estimated 265,000 diagnosed cases annually in the U.S.

How to prevent pathogenic E.coli:

* Don’t drink raw milk

* Always wash your hands

* Cook meats thoroughly

* Don’t swallow water when swimming

* Keep food preparation and eating areas clean and disinfected

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, contact a doctor or medical professional immediately.

(Sources: cdc.org and mayoclinic.org)


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