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Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E.coli 0157:H7)
- What is E.coli 0157:H7?
- E.coli 0157:H7 is a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea. The
term "0157:H7" indicates a particular type of E.coli bacteria. Not all
strains of E.coli cause illness.
- Who can get E.coli 0157:H7 infection?
- Anyone, but it appears to be more common in children than adults.
- Where are E.coli 0157:H7 bacteria found?
- E.coli 0157:H7 bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of
infected humans and cows.
- How are the bacteria spread?
- The most common cause of E.coli 0157:H7 infection is eating
undercooked ground beef. Raw milk can also contain the bacteria. The bacteria
are spread by eating food or water that is contaminated with feces of an
infected animal or person. An infected foodhandler can contaminate food by
failing to wash hands after going to the bathroom. Some people have become ill
after swimming in lake water contaminated with feces of infected persons or
- What are the symptoms of E.coli 0157:H7 infection?
- The major symptoms are stomach cramps and diarrhea, which can look like
bloody water. Other symptoms may include vomiting, fever and chills. Some
people do not exhibit any symptoms or they may have mild non-bloody
- Can E.coli 0157:H7 infection cause severe problems?
- In a small percentage of cases, the infection can cause the kidneys to
stop working, especially in young children.
- How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
- The symptoms usually start two to four days after exposure but the
incubation period can be as short as 12 hours or as long as 10 days.
- How long can an infected person spread E.coli
- An infected person can spread the bacteria to others for as long as the
bacteria remains in the stool, usually one week but up to three weeks or
- Should infected people be excluded from school or work?
- Since the bacteria is passed in the feces, children in daycare, health
care workers, or people who handle food should not go to school or work while
they have diarrhea. After diarrhea ends, persons may return to work or school
but they should carefully wash their hands after using the toilet
- What is the treatment for E.coli 0157:H7?
- Most people get well on their own but it is important that anyone having
bloody diarrhea seek medical attention. Antibiotics do not appear to help
people get better faster and are usually not indicated. Persons with diarrhea
should drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
- How can E.coli 0157:H7 infection be prevented?
- Never eat rare or undercooked ground beef. Cook to 155 degrees F or until
the meat color is brown or grey.
- Do not drink unpasteurized milk.
- Always wash any raw fruit or vegetables before eating.
- Always carefully wash hands before and after preparing foods.
- Always refrigerate meat products. Never leave raw meats at room
- Make sure children wash their hands carefully, especially after using the
toilet or handling animals.
- Always wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet or
- Persons with diarrhea should not use public swimming facilities.
Prepared by the Virginia Department of Health, July