The most important toxin-producing strain associated with human illness is known as E. coli O157.
What is E.coli O157?
E.coli is the abbreviated name of the bacteria called Escherichia coli, that are a normal inhabitant of the large intestine of mammals and birds. The human intestine contains many bacteria necessary for us to maintain a normal and healthy life. However, certain strains of E.coli known as verocytotoxin-producing E.coli (VTEC) , produce a potent poison, or toxin, which causes illnesses ranging from mild diarrhoea through to very severe inflammation of the gut. Occasionally this can cause complications such as kidney failure, and anaemia. The most important toxin-producing strain associated with human illness is known as E. coli O157.
How do you get infected with E.coli O157?
E. coli O157 bacteria are commonly found in the gut of cattle and other farm animals.
You can become infected by:
How can you avoid getting infected with E.coli O157?
Handle food and drink safely
What are the symptoms of E.coli O157, and how long do they last?
People infected with E.coli O157 can have one, some, or all of the following symptoms:
Some infected people may have mild diarrhoea or no symptoms at all. A very small number of patients may develop 'haemolytic uraemic syndrome' (HUS) which is associated with kidney failure, anaemia, and bleeding. Complications are more common in children under five years of age and the elderly.
On average, it takes three to four days for symptoms to develop after swallowing an infectious dose of
How do you treat E.coli infection?
There is no specific treatment for E. coli infection. It is important to drink plenty of fluids as diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and you can lose important sugars and minerals from your body. Your doctor may recommend a re-hydration solution, available from your pharmacist.
How long should you stay away from work or school?
Most adults, and children over five years, can go back to work or school 48 hours after the first normal stool. Children under five should stay away from nurseries and playgroups until they are shown to be completely clear of the bacteria and free from diarrhoea.
You must tell your employer if you have had E. coli infection if you handle food, or work with vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the young, or people in poor health. These groups should stay off work until two further stool tests, at least 48 hours apart, show that the bacteria have cleared.
Also if you are a contact of a case and work in any of the above groups you may have to be excluded whilst a stool test is conducted to make sure you have not acquired the bacteria.
You can get further guidance and information on E.Coli and other food poisoning illnesses from the Environmental Health Department at Exeter City Council or The Health Protection Agency
Health Protection Agency
Information provided by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).