What Causes E. Coli Infection And How To Treat It?

What Causes E. Coli Infection And How To Treat It?

Hundreds of bacteria reside in the human digestive system each performing its own course of action. While there are good and bad bacterias, the problem occurs when some members bring bad name to the family by causing a number of complications. One such bacteria is Escherichia Coli or popularly known as E. Coli.

Highlights

  • E. Coli is a bacterium that lives in the digestive system of human and animals
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea are some of the classic symptoms of E. Coli infection
  • Most of the cases do not need any treatment but adequate rest and preventing dehydration can help relieve symptoms

Escherichia coli

E. Coli is a bacterium normally present in the digestive tract of the warm-blooded humans and animals. There are several types of E. Coli bacteria and while most of them harmless, some are notorious for causing health complications. One such type is E. coli O157: H7 that generally make headlines.

What causes E. Coli infection?

E. Coli O157: H7 produces a powerful toxin that could damage the lining of the intestines causing bloody diarrhea. Other strains of E. Coli causes abdominal pain and even kidney failure

There are many potential sources which act as a gateway to E. Coli bacteria.

Basically, a person can get E. Coli infection by coming in contact with feces or stool of human and animals. This could happen when we eat food or drink water contaminated by feces. 

E. Coli infection mostly occurs in the summer season.

E. Coli infection through food

Improper food handling and processing can lead to E. Coli infection.

Improper slaughtering process of cattle can give room to E. Coli bacteria present in animal intestines to get into the meat and increasing the chances of infection.

  • Unpasteurized milk can cause E. Coli infection. The bacteria present in cow’s mammary glands can enter into the milk. If the milk is pasteurized, it means the milk has been heated to destroy bacteria.
  • Consuming raw seafoods and any raw food that hasn’t been properly washed.
  • Certain vegetables such as spinach and lettuce (salad leaf) are susceptible to this type of contamination
  • Consuming undercooked food especially meat and poultry
  • Consuming dairy products or food such as mayonnaise that has been left out for long

E. Coli infection through water

Faeces of many times gets into lakes, swimming pools, and water supplies, acting as a good medium for entering the human body. 

This happens when the water supply has not been treated properly with chlorine and people swallow this contaminated water.

Private wells which lack any disinfecting system are greater cause for concern. Moreover, E. Coli infection cannot be destroyed by cold temperature, means it can be found in ice cubes as well.

E. Coli infection from person to person contact

When an infected person fails to wash hands after bowel movement or defecation, it can transmit the infection to others.

Symptoms of E. Coli Infection

Usually, E. Coli infection does not cause serious symptoms but in some cases, problem could be related to blood and kidneys which are serious. 

A person starts showing symptoms anywhere between 1-10 days after coming in contact with the bacteria. Once symptoms appear, it lasts 5-10 days:

Common Symptoms

Severe Symptoms

These symptoms demand immediate medical attention:

  • Decreased amount of urine
  • Pale skin
  • Bruising
  • Dehydration

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Risk factors to look for E. Coli

E. Coli can affect anyone exposed to the bacteria but some people are at increased risk of getting the infection:

  • Young children and older adults can experience more serious symptoms and complications than others
  • People with weak immune system
  • Certain foods such as unpasteurized milk and undercooked meat increases the risk
  • Stomach acid provides some protection from E. Coli infection. People who take medications that reduce the stomach acid level are more at risk

How E. Coli infection is treated?

Normally, treatment isn’t necessary for E. Coli infection. Most people get well in a week without seeing a doctor and without knowing that E. Coli caused them a problem. 

However, things don’t work same for everybody. There are certain home care measures to ease symptoms like:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take small amount of sips to prevent dehydration
  • Take adequate amount of rest and making yourself comfortable
  • Keep an eye on symptoms
  • Do not take over-the-counter anti-diarrhoeal medicines without asking the doctor as it slows down the digestive process

E. Coli infection in most cases is not a serious disease, but in some cases when the infection causes serious problems with blood and kidneys, call the doctor immediately.

Sources

1. E. coli infection(2017, May 21). read more
2. E. coli. (n.d.). read more
3. E.coli (Escherichia coli): General information. (2015). 
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