Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of both humans and animals. While most strains of E. coli are harmless, some cause a variety of serious illnesses. Common infections caused by a harmful strain of E. coli include cholangitis, bacteremia, cholecystitis, pneumonia, neonatal meningitis, traveler's diarrhea, and urinary tract infections. Nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping or pain, and mild to severe cases of diarrhea (watery and sometimes accompanied with blood) may be experienced one day up until a week after exposure to E. coli O157: H7, the strain which causes harm to the body. Here are a few ways you are exposed to E. coli O157: H7.
Contaminated Food Or Water
The most common way individuals acquire an e. coli infection is by ingesting contaminated food or water. Consuming undercooked meat such as pork, lamb, and especially beef puts you at greater risk of contracting this infection. Because e. coli derives in the stomach region of warm-blooded mammals, the bacteria can make its way into the meat during the slaughtering process or as meat is being packaged. It is important to cook your meat thoroughly to kill off the bacteria before eating.
Drinking water as well as the water in swimming pools, ponds, lakes, and water wells (primarily in rural areas) may also be contaminated with the bacteria. Water may become polluted when there is a sewage malfunction or overflow, or if an agricultural or polluted stormwater run-off has occurred. Avoid drinking unfiltered water or swimming in pools that have not been recently treated with chlorine. Unfortunately, fresh produce may also carry damaging strains of e. coli. This is usually the case if the vegetables or fruit have been grown in cow manure or exposed to contaminated water. Wash produce thoroughly before consumption to remove any harmful bacteria.
Continue reading for more on what can cause an e. coli infection.