What Is E. coli?
Escherichia coli, otherwise known as E. coli, naturally live in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. Most strands of E. coli are harmless, while others cause severe symptoms among otherwise healthy individuals. Some types of E. coli are actually quite healthy, assisting with the body’s production of vitamin K2 and preventing pathogenic bacteria. However, serotype O157:H7 can cause food poisoning and, in severe cases, as seen by E. coli lawyer Ron Simon, death. Less common but equally harmful E. coli serotypes include O103, O111, O145, O26, O104:H4, and O104:H21.
What Are the Symptoms of E. coli Infection?
E. coli infection doesn’t manifest as quickly as other foodborne illnesses, such as norovirus and salmonella. E. coli generally appears three to four days after the initial infection, though in some cases, symptoms don’t appear for over a week. The most common E. coli symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain – sudden and severe stomach cramping is the first symptom to strike infected individuals, followed by diarrhea a few hours later. The stomach cramping may create sores in the intestines, resulting in bloody stools.
- Nausea – while nausea is a common sign of an E. coli infection, it’s important to note that not all infected individuals will vomit. Similarly, fevers may not always occur.
- Fatigue – since vomiting and diarrhea cause fluid loss, patients will be low on electrolytes. This creates fatigue that leaves the patient feeling tired and sick, even if other symptoms subside. It is imperative that individuals suffering from dehydration consume salty foods, as well as water or sports drinks to rehydrate and revitalize themselves.
If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect negligence on the part of a restaurant or food manufacturer, consult a highly skilled food poisoning attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
What Are the Causes of E. coli Infection?
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) lives in the intestines of ruminant animals. STEC does not make the animals sick, but human consumption has devastating consequences. These E. coli infections spread through:
- Contaminated food – generally, E. coli infection results from consuming undercooked or raw foods. Contamination can also spread due to poor hygiene during food preparation. For instance, a restaurant employee who uses the toilet without washing his or her hands may spread infection to consumers.
- Contaminated water – even though tap water undergoes numerous treatments to ensure public safety, there have been multiple occasions in which municipal water supplies have been contaminated with E. coli. Private wells, lakes, and swimming pools can also circulate infection.
- Physical contact – contact with an infected individual or animal (even something as innocent as petting an animal at the county fair) could result in contamination. The best way to avoid infection is to practice good hygiene.
What Are the Complications of E. coli Infection?
Because symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea, and stomach cramping are so common, many individuals don’t realize they’re infected with E. coli and opt not to seek medical care. Sometimes, failure to obtain proper medical attention can result in life-threatening complications. Each year, approximately five to ten percent of people diagnosed with an E. coli infection experience hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a deadly complication.
HUS shuts down the kidneys and other vital organs, creating serious problems that can result in permanent damage or death if left untreated. Signs of HUS include less frequent urination, loss of color in the cheeks and inner eyelids, and extreme fatigue. If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, it’s critical to check with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine their cause, and then contact a dedicated E. coli attorney experienced in these types of cases. Failure to diagnose an E. coli infection that leads to HUS can be devastating.
How Common Are E. coli Infections?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 265,000 STEC infections occur annually. Since not all cases of E. coli infection are diagnosed or reported, it’s likely that these figures are much higher. Diagnosis is accomplished through laboratory testing of stool specimens, which is also a tool to determine whether a public outbreak is imminent.
Even after the illness and symptoms of STEC are resolved, E. coli may reside in the body for several weeks until it sheds the bacteria. Proper hygiene and healthy food preparation habits are the primary ways to avoid infection.
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