E Coli Symptoms: Infection with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) typically causes severe abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody), and nausea or vomiting, though these symptoms may manifest differently in different people. Some persons may be running a low-grade fever (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.5 degrees Celsius).
After about a week, most people have fully recovered. Infections can range in severity from quite minor to potentially fatal. It often takes 3–4 days after ingesting something contaminated with STEC for symptoms to appear. E Coli symptoms, however, may not appear until 1-10 days following exposure.
If your diarrhea lasts longer than 3 days, you have a temperature greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, if it is bloody, or if you are vomiting so much that you can’t keep any liquids down and are passing very little pee, you should see a doctor.
What Is E. Coli?
The bacterium known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) is found naturally in the digestive systems of animals and healthy humans. This type of bacteria is typically harmless. Aids in the breakdown of food consumed. However, diarrhea, stomach aches and cramps, and a mild temperature can be symptoms of a few different types of E. coli. In severe cases, an infection with E. coli can be fatal.
What Does E. Coli Look Like?
Enterobacter cloacae, or E. coli, is a rod-shaped bacterium that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae. It doesn’t need oxygen to survive and is perfectly comfortable in airless conditions. People and other mammals with a body temperature above cool have these bacteria living in their intestines.
How Many Strains Of E. Coli Cause Diarrhea?
Six different strains of E. coli are known to cause diarrhea. These strains are:
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC): This is the bacteria most commonly known for E. coli food contamination. This strain is also called enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) and verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC).
- Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC): This strain is commonly known as a cause of travelers’ diarrhea.
- Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC).
- Enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC).
- Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPIC).
- Diffusely adherent E. coli (DAEC).
How Does E. Coli Make You Sick?
To make you sick, the most common types of E. coli produce a toxin called Shiga. The intestinal lining is damaged by the poison, which is why you’re vomiting and having diarrhea. These E. coli strains are also known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli because they produce this poison (STEC). E. coli O157:H7, or simply E. coli O157, is the most well-known and frequently-mentioned STEC in North America.
Not all STEC strains are O157:H7. These strains also cause disease, although they are less likely to produce life-threatening complications like the O157 strain.
Who Can Get Infected With E. Coli?
A disease-causing E. coli strain can infect anyone who comes into touch with it. The most vulnerable among us are:
- The very young (newborns and children).
- The elderly.
- People who have weakened immune systems (for example, those with cancer, diabetes, HIV, and women who are pregnant).
- People who travel to certain countries.
What Are The Symptoms Of An E. Coli Infection?
The following symptoms may appear in those infected with the STEC variety of E. coli:
- Stomach pains and cramps.
- Diarrhea may range from watery to bloody.
- Loss of appetite or nausea.
- Low fever < 101 °F/ 38.5 °C (not all people have this symptom).
How Is An E. Coli Infection Treated?
The good news is that the majority of E. coli infections heal on their own. E. coli infection can be helped by consuming lots of fluids to make up for those lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Try to get as much sleep as you can.
Because they can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of the hemolytic uremic syndrome, antibiotics are rarely prescribed for STEC O157 infections (HUS). Stopping diarrhea with medicines like bismuth subsalicylate can raise your risk of developing HUS by keeping the E. coli germs in your body. Five to seven days after the onset of symptoms, you should begin to feel better.
How Can I Prevent Or Avoid An E. Coli Infection?
To prevent an E. coli infection, it is crucial to regularly perform hand hygiene. Make sure to properly wash your hands before beginning any cooking or after handling raw meat or poultry. If you’ve been handling animals, changing diapers, or using the restroom, you should wash your hands.
Scrub your hands thoroughly with soap and water, paying special attention to the spaces between your fingers and toenails, if you suspect you have an E. coli infection. If you want to avoid spreading germs, use paper towels instead of a cloth towel to dry your hands. Following these guidelines for preparing and cooking food can also lower the likelihood of contracting E. coli.
When Thawing Meats:
- Don’t leave unwrapped packages of frozen meat out on the counter to defrost.
- To prevent cross-contamination, always defrost frozen meat in a separate plastic bag (like a grocery bag).
When Prepping Foods:
- Meat should not be washed before being cooked. There’s no need for that. Bacteria could be transmitted to other foods and surfaces if the meat is washed.
- When preparing raw meat, use a ceramic or plastic chopping board. These alternatives to wooden cutting boards are easier and more thorough to clean after use.
- Don’t use the same chopping board or cutting board twice. A cutting board that previously held raw meat or poultry should be washed with soap and hot water before being used for preparing another food item (such as a raw vegetable). Even better, separate the meals you are preparing onto separate chopping boards.
- Please remember to thoroughly wash all raw produce in cold running water before consuming it. Firm produce can be scrubbed, but soap or detergent should not be used.
When Cooking And Serving Meats:
- Make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly (undercooked meat is another source of E. coli contamination). To eliminate microorganisms, cook meals thoroughly.
- Always check the internal temperature of your meat with a food thermometer, and cook it to the USDA-recommended internal temperature (see references for link).
- Neither raw ground beef nor any other raw meat should ever come into contact with cooked hamburgers.
- Keep any leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible.
How Long Does E. Coli Survive Outside The Body?
Time spent outside the body by E. coli ranges from hours to months. About 130 days is how long it can survive in soil. Unlike its short lifespan in water, E. coli may live for up to 10 days in cattle slurry and up to 27 days in river water. E. coli has been demonstrated to live for more than 60 days on stainless steel. It can stay put on wooden chopping boards for at least 12 hours.
The length of time that E. coli can survive outside the body is affected by several parameters, such as temperature, humidity, food and water availability, acidity, and UV radiation.