E Coli Bacteria For those who follow the rules of good nutrition by eating healthy foods, the rewards can be substantial. But it’s also important that you clean and cook your food properly. Because if you don’t, certain microorganisms that hitchhike into your stomach can make you feel miserable. E. coli is a bacteria that normally live in the intestines of humans and animals.
Although, most strains of this bacteria are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause diarrhea. One particular E. coli strain can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage E. coli made a notorious appearance at a fast-food restaurant chain about three years ago, sickening hundreds and killing four children who ate undercooked hamburgers. Experts estimate that E. coli causes as many as 20,000 infections and 250 deaths per year.
The incidence of food-borne illness is staggering. Physicians in the United States deal with 8.2 million cases annually, a quarter of a million of which require hospitalization. The bacteria is acquired by eating food containing the bacteria. The bacteria live in the intestines of some healthy cattle, and contamination of the meat may occur in the slaughtering process. Eating meat that is rare or inadequately cooked is the most common way of getting the infection.
Person-to-person transmission can occur if infected people do not wash their hands after using the toilet. People infected by E. coli can develop a range of symptoms. Some infected people may have mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. Most identified cases develop severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Blood is often seen in the stool. Usually little or no fever is present. Most people recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment in five to 10 days. The best course of action is to drink plenty of liquids, rest, and avoid anti-diarrheal medication, which may actually retard your ability to eliminate the bacteria. In children under five years of age, the infection can cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
This is a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Blood clotting factors as well as kidney dialysis may be necessary. Most people recover completely, but it can be fatal. The best way to avoid illness from beef at home is to cook the meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill the organism. Though it may put a crimp in your culinary style when you eat out, it’s probably advisable to go for “rare” and “medium rare.” If your steak or burger still looks too pink inside, send it back to the grill. Drink only pasteurized milk and milk products.
Make sure infected people, especially children, wash their hands carefully with soap after using the toilet to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.