Work/Life

The E. Coli Menace: What to Watch For

An outbreak of E. coli this year was responsible for several deaths in Europe and caused hundreds to get sick.  The epidemic renewed concerns about E. coli in general.  Here’s a quick overview.

The bacteria Escherichia coli, commonly abbreviated E. coli, is found in the intestines of humans and animals.  Most forms are relatively harmless, causing nothing more than brief episodes of diarrhea, particularly in travelers to countries in the developing world where sanitation is primitive or ineffective.  But some strains can cause kidney failure, anemia, and other major health problems.

Most cases result from eating undercooked beef or raw vegetables, or drinking contaminated water.  People who work with cattle can pick up the bacteria, and it can be passed through hand-to-hand contact, especially if carriers don’t wash their hands after using the restroom.

Symptoms usually crop up about seven days after a person becomes infected.  They include:

  • Stomach cramps and abdominal tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea that starts out watery but turns bloody
  • Mild fever (sometimes)

See a doctor if you begin exhibiting these symptoms, especially bloody diarrhea.  Your physician may request a stool sample to confirm the diagnosis.  But there’s no special treatment for infection except to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.  Patients shouldn’t take anti-diarrheal medications; they can slow the digestive process and prolong the disease.  Stay in touch with your doctor, and report any complications that may arise.

 

-Article provided by FirstDraft

Categories: Work/Life

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