On August 23, 2006, the FDA began getting reports of a nation-wide outbreak of the E. coli bacteria, also known as Escherichia coli. Normally, E. coli is found in the intestines of humans and animals naturally and does not cause any problems. However, one strain of the bacteria, Escherichia coli O157:H7, is considered especially dangerous because it causes food poisoning and can lead to kidney failure if consumed.
Most people associate E. coli poisoning with eating or preparing uncooked meat, but as the current outbreak shows, E. coli can be transmitted in other ways as well. While it is unclear as to what caused the E. coli infection of spinach in California, the FDA is taking no chances. All packaged spinach has been recalled and the public has been warned to stay away from uncooked spinach in any form until the contamination is under control and the cause of the outbreak is determined. If you are concerned about E. coli infection, below is a list of symptoms and preventative information.
Symptoms of E. coli infection:
Blood in stool
Symptoms can sometimes take a few days to appear, so if you notice you or your child experiencing diarrhea, bloody stool, vomiting or cramping, consult with your doctor right away. Drinking purified water can help to flush toxins from your system, but do not let the condition go untreated! While many adults can recover within a week of infection, there has already been one death associated with this outbreak and over 100 E. coli cases reported in at least 8 states.*(See Resources) Some E. Coli infections can be treated with antibiotics, but not all, so make sure to consult with your doctor before trying to treat yourself or a loved one.
E. Coli infection is contagious. If you or your child has symptoms of infection, it is important to carefully wash your hands under hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds each time you go to the restroom as E. coli is located in fecal matter. In general, avoid raw milk, uncooked spinach, and uncooked meats; thoroughly wash any utensils used when cooking raw meat.
In young children and the elderly, it is especially important to catch the symptoms right away as E. coli contamination can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) which is known to create anemia and kidney failure.
While only one death has been reported, the cases of E. coli infection have been increasing since August 23, 2006. Currently, federal investigators are examining fields in Central California to determine the cause of the spinach contamination.