Escherichia coli is a certain type of bacteria which can befound in the intestines of animals and people. Most strains of the bacteria arelargely harmless or may sometimes cause brief bouts of diarrhea. On the other hand,there are also very dangerous strains of Escherichia coli such as the O157:H7which may be associated with vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe cases ofabdominal cramps. There are numerous ways of being exposed to E. coli. Recoveryfrom such infections usually takes a week in adults, but when they occur in childrenthey may lead to a life threatening medical condition which affects the kidneysand is medicinally referred to as hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Escherichia coli causes
The nasty type of E. coli strain described above actuallyproduces a very toxic substance which causes significant damage to the liningof the small intestine and in most cases it leads to the onset of a bloodydiarrhea. Among the most common causes of such infections is exposure tocontaminated water, contaminated food and person to person contact. Animal and human feces may easily pollutesurface and ground water such as lakes, rivers, streams and water commonly usedfor the irrigation of the crops. The public water systems commonly utilizeozone, ultraviolet light and chlorine in order to kill all the harmfulbacteria, but in spite of that there have been certain outbreaks which were associatedwith contaminated municipal water supplies. Private wells may also beassociated with similar problems. Sometimes a person may also get infectedafter swimming in lakes or pools which have been contaminated with animal orhuman feces. E.coli infections are commonly acquired by consuming foods whichwere contaminated with the bacteria. Those foods usually include restaurantmeals, fresh produce, unpasteurized milk or ground beef. Restaurant meals caneasily be contaminated by the bacteria because of servers or cooks who do notwash their hand after using the bathroom. Fresh produce such as lettuce orspinach are very vulnerable to contamination of fields by the runoff fromcattle farms. This harmful bacterium caneasily travel from person to person, especially in the cases when persons donot wash their hands properly. Children are usually at the biggest risk ofacquiring an E. coli infection. There are various risk factors which may causesome people to be more likely to develop problems than some others, even thoughthe infection may occur in anyone who gets exposed to the bacteria. Eating certaintypes of food items such as soft cheeses made from raw milk, cider, applejuice, unpasteurized milk and undercooked hamburgers greatly increases the riskof acquiring E. coli infections. Those who have a weakened immune system are atan increased risk of acquiring an E. coli infection as well. These people areusually those who have AIDS or are under the effects of drugs commonly used forthe treatment of cancers or the prevention of the rejection of organtransplants. Age is another important risk fact. Older adults and youngchildren are at an increased risk of becoming ill with E. coli infections andalso acquiring some serious complications commonly associated with this type ofinfection.
How to treat Escherichia coli
It is a peculiar fact that in most cases of infectionstriggered by the E. coli bacteria, people usually do not seek any medicalattention. If the symptoms of the infection are particularly severe it is ofutmost importance to seek immediate medical attention. The doctor usually wantsto know how often the patient vomits and how often he or she is havingdiarrhea. It is very important to tell the doctor if the vomit or the diarrheacontain blood, mucus or bile. If the patient has high fever, it is veryimportant to notify the doctor. The doctor also usually wants to know the exactbeginning of the symptoms and if the patient traveled outside the country inrecent times. If someone in the household suffers from the same symptoms, thedoctor needs to know about that. Abdominal cramps are also one of the alarmingsymptoms which need to be reported to the doctor. The most commonly experiencedsymptoms of the E. coli infection include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea which maysometimes be bloody, stomach tenderness and severe abdominal cramps. In somecases, the infection is not associated with any symptoms at all. On the otherhand there are numerous other medical conditions which have symptoms verysimilar to those commonly associated with E. coli infections. This is why itmay be very complicated to diagnose an E. coli infection. In most cases, theinfection ends up after a week. The diarrhea usually triggers dehydration andother minor complications which need to be taken care of by carefullyregulating the intake of fluids and essential minerals. Some severe cases maycall for blood transfusion or dialysis.