E.coli is also called as Escherichia coli. E.coli is a bacterium known to cause infections in humans. E.coli is present in the intestine of humans and animals as normal flora. These intestinal bacteria can cause intestinal infection leading to different diseases. E.coli infections can be diagnosed and treated in a short span of time. Intestinal infections are generally caused by contaminated food and water.
E.coli infection is caused by a germ or bacterium named Escherichia coli. There are different strains of Escherichia coli which can cause infection. Most of the E.coli strains are harmless as they are the normal flora of the body. E.coli organism can be found in faeces of humans and animals. When a healthy person consumes food and water contaminated with faeces of animals and humans, they are at high risk of infection. Contaminated food and water acts as a source of E.coli infection. Animal food products that are undercooked can also acts as a carrier of E.coli infection.
The contaminated foods that can cause E.coli infection include:
- Unpasteurized milk – E.coli bacteria are present on cow’s udder and they can be transferred to the milk container or the milk coming from the udder. These bacteria can cause E.coli infection to the person consuming the milk.
- Ground beef – When the cattle are slaughtered in a slaughter house, the bacteria can spread from the intestine to the meat present in the slaughter house. Ground beef comprise of meat from different animals and thus the germs are spread increasing the risk of contamination and infection.
- Animal excreta – Runoff from cattle farms also contain E.coli bacteria that can contaminate the cattle field and the surrounding areas. Runoff from cattle field will contaminate the agricultural crops present in the surrounding. Crops which are mainly affected are spinach and lettuce.
E.coli infection can spread from person to person by personal contact. The infection spreads when the infected individuals do not wash their hands properly and do not take care of proper hygiene.
The other source of infection can be contaminated water. Human and animal excreta can pollute the ground and surface water bodies that includes lakes, rivers and streams.
The symptoms of E.coli infections are clearly visible in the patients. Visible symptoms appear between one-five days of infection. The most common symptoms in initial stages include:
- Severe watery diarrhoea
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal cramping
The symptoms in later or severe condition include:
- Pale skin
- Bloody urine
- Bloody stools
- Severe dehydration
- Decreased urine output
There is no vaccine for E.coli infection. E.coli infection can be prevented by taking good care of sanitary conditions in the surroundings. The following precautionary measures can be taken to avoid infection:
- Properly cooked meat at a desired temperature can reduce the risk of infection
- Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.
- Prepare juice or beverages with pure uncontaminated water.
- Vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly to get rid of E.coli.
- Wash utensils properly after they come in contact with the raw meat products.
- Washing your hands properly can avoid the spread of infection
- Use hand sanitizers to kill the germs.
- Keep raw fruits and vegetable separately to prevent the spread of germs.