Escherichia Coli (E. coli)

Exposed to a foodborne illness?

If you suspect you have been exposed to a foodborne illness, please contact the Summit County Health Department at 435-333-1511. We will begin an investigation and try to help prevent the further spread of the illness. Please visit your doctor if necessary.

We do not provide medical services.

Foodborne Illness – Escherichia coli (E. coli) Infection

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of humans and animals. There are many strains of E. coli bacteria. Most of them are harmless. However, one particular strain, E. coli O157:H7, may cause serious illness in people. Cattle may be a prime source of infection for people.

Symptoms

Symptoms appear from 1 to 10 days after exposure, usually within 2 to 4 days.

  • Diarrhea (which often becomes bloody)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Slight fever (often no fever)
How It Is Spread
  • It can spread from cattle to people through raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or contaminated water, or by foods which were contaminated by raw beef products.
  • An infected person may spread the illness to others by failure to wash hands well after a bowel movement.
Diagnosis & Treatment
  • E. coli O157:H7 is diagnosed by examining a stool sample. This requires a special test that is not available in all laboratories. If an E. coli O157:H7 infection is suspected, a health care provider must request a culture for this bacteria so that the stool sample will be sent to a laboratory that can perform the test.
  • The diarrhea usually goes away in a few days without treatment. As with any diarrhea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (fluid loss). Do not use anti-diarrhea medicines.
Prevention
  • Cook all meat, especially ground beef, thoroughly. Contaminated meat looks and smells normal. There is no risk from E. coli O157:H7 if the meat is thoroughly cooked.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw hamburger.
  • Clean all utensils and surfaces after contact with raw meat.
  • Make certain that cooked meat is gray or brown (not pink) throughout. Cook ground beef to 155ºF. There should be no bloody juices.
  • If you are served pink meat, especially hamburger, in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk. Eat only milk products (for example cheese) made with pasteurized milk.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and warm water. Wash after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper and before preparing or eating food.
  • Teach children good hygiene habits.
  • Keep infected children away from other children and the elderly and follow your health care provider’s advice about returning to school or day care.
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) is a serious complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection. The bacteria produce a toxin that causes anemia and damage to kidneys and blood vessels. Although most people recover, this damage can be permanent. It is more common in children than in adults. It is not known why some people develop HUS, while others do not.

Contact Us

Environmental Health Division, Summit County Health Department

650 Round Valley Drive, Park City, Utah 84060
Phone: 435-333-1511, Fax: 435-333-1580
summitenviro@summitcounty.org

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