Escherichia Coli. E. coli O157:H7 is a gram-negative bacterium responsible for food borne and waterborne illnesses. Most of the strains are safe and are found in the intestines of every healthy human and animals yet this one may produce a toxin that may lead to severe illness. This non-pathogenic E Coli may cause severe illness if it spreads outside of the intestine like urinary tract (bladder or kidney infection) or in the bloodstream. There are other forms of E Coli which may even lead to poisoning or diarrhea even if they do not spread outside the intestine because they produce toxins and lead to intestinal inflammation within the intestine.
When was it recognized?
E. coli O157:H7 came in view during an outbreak of infection caused by an intake of contaminated burgers and resulted in severe infection. Thus, after that outbreak E. Coli was believed to originate from eating undercooked ground beef. However this view was challenged in 1999 when contaminated water resulted in sickness in New York and even swimming was a cause of its occurrence. Thus, it is now believed that E.Coli is an airborne and waterborne disease.
Thus, E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria secrete toxins that produce a bloody diarrhea because of the infected human intestines. It takes 3 to 5 days or even 10 days for the incubation period for the symptoms.
The infection will lead to a low fever of about 101F, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps. It may affect both children and adults leading to additional complications like anemia, renal failure, and organ failure, dehydration especially in children and mental changes in older people. Generally the infection gets resolved within 5 to 7 days. But in some cases the signs become severe. Thus, it may require immediate medication and the patient must be hospitalized else it may lead to disability or death. Thus, if the patient becomes dehydrated or anemic or develops Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) or Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) he must be hospitalized and treatment must become as soon as possible.
But definitely prevention is better than cure. Vaccine is not available for humans. So one should eat well cooked food especially hamburgers and drink pure or pasteurized water. Contaminated food by animal or human waste may be avoided an intake to avoid E.Coli from developing.