All About E. Coli: Avoidance, Symptoms and Treatments

Most people are aware of E. Coli and the damage it can do, but do you know you most likely have some of this bacterium in your intestines? Not all strains of E. Coli are dangerous. E. Coli really wasn’t considered a point of concern until 1982, when the dangerous strain of the bacteria was identified as causing illness in humans.

E. Coli is quite dangerous if ingested. It attacks the intestines as well as the blood vessels. Kidney failure is the common form of death for those who develop severe cases. As many as 20,000 American’s get sick from E. Coli in any given year, but the number of deaths is under 500. This bacterium is especially dangerous for children and the elderly. Most of these cases are mild.

Where It Comes From

The most commonly reported cases of E. Coli are said to come from undercooked meats. Ground beef is a particularly common place where E Coli has been found. The bacterium lives on the outside of meat cuts, and is typically killed when that meat is cooked on the outside. When it comes to ground beef, however, the bacteria can be all through the meat because of the way it is processed.

Another common source of E. Coli is lettuce, both fresh and in prepackaged salads. While the reasons E. Coli is found in lettuce are unknown, your best bet is to assume it’s there and wash your lettuce, even the prepackaged kind.

E. Coli can also be spread around via water supply. It can also be found in public watering holes, such as pools. One person contaminated with E. Coli can spread it to others in the pool.


While there may not be much you can do about E. Coli showing up in your water supply, all other instances can be avoided. Here are some tips on avoiding E. Coli contamination in your home.

– Don’t swallow water in public pools or swimming holes
– Clean thoroughly with hot, soapy water when handling raw meats
– Wipe all counters carefully and completely when handling raw meats
– Always wash all fruits and vegetables that you are preparing to eat in your home
– Never eat undercooked hamburger
– When barbequing, always use a fresh plate for cooked meats
– Clean the outsides of all fruits, even when you are not going to eat the outside. This would include watermelons and cantaloupes. Even if you aren’t eating the outside of the fruit, using a knife to cut the fruit can spread E. Coli from the outside surface into the fruit inside.
– Once you use something to clean up raw meat areas, wash it or throw it out. Never use a washcloth to wipe up meats and then use it to wash your dishes.

Symptoms and Treatment

The symptoms of E. Coli are much like the flu. A person may have high fever, gas, abdominal pain, and less commonly, vomiting. One difference will be the presence of blood in the bowel movement. There should never be blood in a person’s stool, so if you see this in yourself or someone in your family, get to the emergency room as soon as you can.

Most cases of E. Coli will clear up on their own within a few days. However it is important to see your doctor when you suspect E. Coli is the problem because death can occur. In cases where kidney failure is suspected or severe dehydration occurs, a hospital stay may be required.

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