Basic facts about E. coli infection, treatment and prevention

E.col just refuses to disappear from the news. Everywhere you turn there is warning about E.coli. While you may be alarmed by all the warnings, understanding basic facts about E. coli infection, treatment and prevention can help you protect yourself effectively from the bacterium.

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli or simply E. coli is a bacterium that lives in the digestive tracts of animals and humans. The bacterium takes its name from the German bacteriologist and pediatrician Theodor Escherich who discovered it in 1888. Like most other bacteria in the intestines, E. coli is not necessarily bad.

Some strains of the bacteria provide vital vitamins that help you operate properly. In fact, E.coli is practically the main source of Vitamin K and B-complex. Strains of E. coli also prevent harmful pathogenic bacteria from developing in the intestines, thereby keeping you healthy.

So, why are E. coli warnings all over the news?

When E. coli becomes bad

There are many strains of E. coli most of which exist as part of the normal flora of the human gut. While most of these strains have health benefits, some strains of the bacteria are harmful. E. coli serotype O157:H7, for example, causes food poisoning and can be fatal.

Other less common, but still life-threatening serotypes include: E. coli O157:H7, O104:H21, O104:H4, O103, O121 and O26. These E. coli strains can cause serious infection and even death. The E. coli O157:H7, for example, can cause severe infection of the kidney and aggravate anemia, leading to death.

How E. coli is infected

E. coli infection happens when you come into contact with human or animal stool or feces. The most common way people come in contact with E. coli is eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by feces. Some signs that you may be infected with the bacteria include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and stomach cramps.

Treatment and prevention

In most cases, E. coli goes away on its own. If E. coli infection causes diarrhea, drink plenty of water to replace the water that is lost through diarrhea. If infection causes serious problems with the kidney or blood, seek medical attention immediately. You many require dialysis or blood transfusion. Dialysis helps filter waste products from the blood when the kidneys fail to function properly.

Reduce the risk of infection by maintaining high standards of hygiene always, especially when dealing with food items.

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