Escherichia Coli As A Public Health Concern

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I have read several literature and, I have in the past several months seen the effect of the Escherichia coli especially in the gastro-intestinal system. Kindly use your dedicated weekly health column to enlighten your readers about it.

V Mercy.

Thanks, Mercy, for your question. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines. It’s also found in the gut of some animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep the digestive tract healthy.

What are the symptoms and signs?

1. Abdominal cramping

2. Sudden, severe watery diarrhoea that may change to bloody stools

3. Loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting (uncommon)

4. Fatigue and Fever

5. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to more than a week.

6. Bloody urine and decreased urine output

7. Pale skin and bruising

8. Dehydration

How is it transmitted?

1. Improper food handling such as unsafe handling and preparation can cause contamination.

2. Failing to wash hands completely before preparing or eating food

3. Using utensils, cutting boards, or serving dishes that are not clean, causing cross-contamination

4. Consuming dairy products or food containing mayonnaise that have been left out too long

5. Consuming foods that have not been stored at the right temperature

6. Consuming foods that are not cooked to the right temperature or duration of time, especially meats and poultry

7. Drinking unpasteurised milk and consuming raw produce that has not been properly washed

8. Food processing. During the slaughtering process, poultry and meat products can acquire the bacteria from the animals ‘intestines.

9. Contaminated water.

10. Person to person. E. coli can spread when an infected person does not wash his or her hands after having a bowel movement. The bacteria are then spread when that person touches someone or something else, like food.

What are the risk factors of contracting E. coli infection?

·Age: Older adults and young children are more likely to experience serious complications from E. coli.

·A weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to E. coli infections.

·Low stomach acid levels: Medications used to decrease stomach acid levels can increase one’s risk of E. coli infection.

·Certain foods: Drinking unpasteurised milk or juices and eating undercooked meat can increase one’s risk of E. coli.

When to see a doctor?

Intestinal infection can lead to dehydration and serious complications, such as kidney failure and sometimes death, if it is not treated. You should see your doctor if:

1. You have diarrhoea that is not getting better after four days, or two days for an infant or child.

2. You have a fever with diarrhoea.

3. Abdominal pain does not get better after a bowel movement.

4. There is pus or blood in your stool.

How E. coli infection is treated?

· In most cases, home care is all that’s required to treat an E. coli infection. Drink plenty of water, get lots of rest, and keep an eye out for more severe symptoms that require a call to your doctor.

·If you have bloody diarrhea or fever, check with your doctor before taking drugs

How to prevent E. coli infection?

1. Regular wash hands before handling, serving, or eating food, and especially after touching animals or using the bathroom.

2. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

3. Avoiding cross-contamination by using clean utensils, pans, and serving platters

4. Keeping raw meats away from other foods and away from other clean items.

5. Always defrosting meat in the refrigerator or microwave.

6. Refrigerating leftovers immediately.

7. Drinking only pasteurised milk products (avoiding raw milk).