Public Health Fact Sheet
What is E. Coli infection?
Escherichia coli bacteria normally lives in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and some are in fact important to a health human intestinal tract. However, some are harmful when found outside of the intestinal tract and cause illness.
How is E. Coli spread?
The type of E. Coli that can cause diarrheal illness can be transmitted through contaminated food or water or through contact with contaminated people or animals. It is most commonly transmitted via undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, contaminated apple cider, or on foods that have been cross-contaminated with these foods. Transmission also occurs after contact with animals, for example farm animals or animals at a petting zoo.
How long after exposure until symptoms begin and how long is a person contagious?
usually begin1-10 days after exposure. An infected person can be contagious to others for as long as 3 weeks.
How is E. Coli treated?
E. Coli infection with diarrheal illness generally resolves without treatment and antibiotics are not usually indicated. Fluid replacement is essential to avoid dehydration particularly in children.
How can E. Coli be prevented?
Practice good hand washing after using the bathroom and before and during food preparation. Cook all meat well done. Practice safe food preparation and food storage. Use a separate cutting board and utensils for meat than you do other foods. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. Refrigerate uneaten cooked foods immediately to prevent bacterial growth. If you are a food handler, or work at or attend a day care you should not work until symptoms resolve and you may be asked to submit a stool specimen for testing prior to returning to work.
Symptoms of E. Coli
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Stomach cramping and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss