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Escherichia coli Infection

(E. coli Infection, Escherichia coli O157:H7)

Definition

Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection is caused by a bacterium. It is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea.

Causes

This infection is caused by some types of the E. coli bacteria. Most E. coli infections are caused by:
Digestive Pathway Through Stomach and Intestines
Digestive pathway
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Risk Factors

This condition is more common in children and older adults.
Factors that increase your chance of developing E. coli infection include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of E. coli infection include:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your waste material may be tested. This can be done with a stool culture.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:

Fluid Replacement and Monitoring

Most people will get better in 5-10 days. They rarely need a specific treatment. Avoid medication that stops diarrhea. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Fluids through an IV line may be needed in cases of severe dehydration.

Treatment for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

HUS is a life-threatening condition. It occurs in some people with E. coli infection. HUS may need to be treated with blood transfusions and kidney dialysis. Symptoms may include:
  • Pale complexion, tiredness, and irritability
  • Small, unexplained bruises, or bleeding from the nose or mouth—caused by problems in the body’s clotting mechanism
Kidney Dialysis
Dialysis pump
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Prevention

To help prevent E. coli infection:

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Food Inspection Agency http://www.inspection.gc.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References

E. coli infection. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/ecoli-infection.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

E. coli (Escherichia coli). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli. Updated December 1, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

Frequently asked questions about Escherichia coli infection. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website. Available at: http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/factsheets/f%5Fecoli.pdf. Accessed December 18, 2014.

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