Escherichia coli are a group of bacteria most of which are harmless and cause no symptoms of illness(CDC, 2008). In fact a very small amount of E. coli bacteria is often present in the intestines of healthy people and many animals. The problem arises when one of the stains that cause symptoms and infection are introduced to the body. The kinds of E. coli that cause disease create a toxin called Shiga toxin or VTEC 0157, this strain of the infection was first identified as a pathogen in 1982 after a number of food poisoning cases were found that did not fit any of the previously known patterns (CDC, 2008).
When the news talks about an outbreak of E. coli, it is usually caused by Shiga toxin bacteria. Because E coli illnesses are often contracted by eating contaminated foods it is often confused with other forms of food poisoning such as samonella and botulism.. Most people who get the form of E coli that makes them ill get it through eating undercooked ground beef, drinking contaminated water, drinking unpasteurized milk, or working with cattle (FamilyDoctor, 2006). Ground beef is the most likely kind of meat to get contaminated, because the bacteria gets spread throughout the meat when it is being ground (family Doctor, 2006).
For this reason it is very important to cook all hamburger thoroughly. Another more surprising source of the bacteria is unwashed produce and raw eggs. Once the bacteria has entered the person’s body it settles in the intestines and can then be passed to other people though fecal matter as the result of improper hand washing (Family Doctor, 2006). The bacteria can be spread even if the infected person does not show symptoms. Symptoms of E coli infection range from having no symptoms at all to in some rare cases death. Most cases involve bloody diareaha (Todar, 2008).
Some people have severe stomach cramps and vomiting and in some cases a low-grade fever (CDC, 2008). The first symptoms typically begin approximately seven days after exposure to the bacteria, but can appear anywhere from 1 to nine days after exposure (NYDH, 2006). The diareha begins as a watery stool and causes up to ten stools per day for approximately a day. Following this, the intestons typically become inflamed and the stools turn bloody for a few more days (Family Doctor, 2006). The diarahha usually leaves the person dehydrated and sometimes requires hospitalization.
For the elderly this can be very serious and many elderly people with E. coli die due to the level of dehydration. Young children sometimes develop a complication called HUS which can cause acute renal failure (Family Doctor, 2006). This happens approximately five days after the onset of symptoms. It is possible for anyone of any age or background to get E. coli infection (NYDH, 2006). Children and elderly people, however take longer to recover and are more likely to suffer serious complications including hospitalization and death.
Countries where less care is taken to clean and sanitize food and eating areas have higher rate of occurrences than the United States, but there are large numbers of cases each year in the United States. Outbreaks often occur among people who have eaten at the same restaurant. This is often the result of some type of unhealthy food preparation practice. These unhealthy practices include not cooking hamburger to a high enough temperature or serving contaminated produce without cleaning it well first.
Another way for several people at the same restaurant to get the illness is by an employee who does not wash her hands after using the restroom. The infection is common in areas where groups of people are together for extended periods of time such as day cares and elderly care facilities. It is made worse in these facilities when those caring for the toileting needs of the individuals in the facilities do not practice sanitary hand washing procedures. Such as changing someone then serving food or caring for another person without washing his hands in between.
Other people get the infection by working with livestock directly such as farmers or touching animals in a petting zoo (CDC, 2008). People who work in large animal confinements can get the bacteria on their hands and then spread it to others if they do not wash their hands and then touch something other people are likely to touch such as money and shopping carts. Because there are a large number of ways to get the illness and virtually anyone can pass the illness on to other people, it is rarely possible to tell where the bacteria was originated.
Approximately twenty percent of the cases reported each year come from a known outbreak, where multiple people become ill from the same source. These can be identified. The other eighty percent of cases rarely have an identifiable source (CDC, 2008). E. coli can only be positively diagnosed by testing a fecal culture in a laboratory. There are two methods to test for the presence of E. coli bacteria (Parry, 2002). Once a test has confirmed that E. coli is the cause of the patient’s symptoms, the patient needs to take care to keep from exposing others to the infection.
This includes notifying other people who may have already been exposed to the illness to enable them to be tested for the infection. In order for a person to be considered negative after once testing positive for E. coli, two consecutive negative stool samples must be obtained. The current treatment for the illness is “Escherichia coli” (2008) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Retrieved April 7, 2008 from: Disease Listing: Escherichia coli General Information | CDC DFBMD.
“E. coli Infection” (2006) Family Doctor. org. Retrieved April 7, 2008 from: E. Coli Infection — familydoctor. org “E. coli 0157:H7 Infection” (December 2006) New York State Department of Health Retrieved April 7, 2008 from: E. coli 0157:H7 Infection Parry, Sharon and Palmer, S. “Environmental Health Issues of VTEC 0157” (2002) Taylor and Francis E. coli: Environmental Health Issues … – Google Book Search Todar, Kenneth. “Pathenogenic E coli” (2008). University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology. Pathogenic E. coli