E. Coli

Escherichia coli or E. coli is a common bacterium that lives in the intestines of animals and people. Most strains of E. coli are harmless. However, E. coli O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness two to eight days (often 3-4 days) after exposure.

People can become infected with E.coli O157:H7 by:

  • Eating undercooked meat products.
  • Consuming raw contaminated vegetables.
  • Drinking raw unpasteurized milk or juice.
  • Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers.
  • Hand to mouth contact while visiting farms and petting zoos.
  • Swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated waters.

An E. coli O157:H7 infection can cause bloody diarrhea and stomach pain which can last 5-10 days. Most healthy adults completely recover within one week. However, an infection can cause Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) which can lead to kidneys failure. Children (under 5 years) and elderly are at greatest risk of HUS.

Remember to:

  • Thoroughly cook meat (160ºF for Ground Beef).
  • Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw animal foods.
  • Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after contacting raw meat.
  • Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. Peel off the outer layer of leafy vegetables.
  • After handling raw meat products wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.