What is E. Coli O157?
E. Coli is a bacteria common to our bodies. Certain species or E. Coli live naturally in the human gastrointestinal tract. It also naturally lives in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, like cattle, goats, and chickens. E. Coli is often associated by consumers with beef. E. Coli can also contaminate legumes and vegetables if they have been exposed to feces contaminated fertilizers, polluted water, and are not properly processed afterwards. Outbreaks of E. Coli O157 have resulted from peanuts used to make peanut butter (like the soy butter in this case), spinach, lettuce, raw milk, unpasteurized juices, and radishes, to name a few.
Several types of E Coli, like E. Coli O157:H7, produce deadly toxins during an infection, which can cause severe complications. Once in the intestinal tract of a person, some forms of E. Coli bacteria release a harmful toxin, called a Shiga toxin. E. Coli O:157H7 is a Shiga toxin producing E. Coli (STEC), and one of the more dangerous foodborne pathogens found in the world. E. Coli symptoms show within 1 to 10 days of ingesting contaminated foods or drinks. A person can also become infected with E. Coli through contact with infected animals or other people.
Persons who have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and transfusions. They may also need transplants. E. Coli O157:H7 is not the only type that is dangerous. Other Shiga toxin producing E. Coli, like E. Coli O26, can also have the same symptoms and complications.
The latency period can range anywhere from 1-9 days before the onset of symptoms. The symptoms of an E. Coli infection include: bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and potentially, vomiting. Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome usually show within a week and include: decreased urination, tea-colored urine, and pale skin.
Thus, it is imperative that people who suspect they may have contracted an E. Coli infection seek immediate medical attention. The sooner the E. Coli food poisoning is detected, the better chance medical providers have of preventing the patient from progressing to the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) stage and potentially dying. HUS is a condition characterized by the sudden onset of gastrointestinal bleeding, anemia from the destruction of red blood cells, low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia), bloody urine and, in the worst cases, acute kidney failure (uremia).