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E.Coli 0157

What Is It?

E. coli 0157 is an infectious illness which can be food or water borne. It is recognised initially by the symptoms. These can range from mild diarrhoea to severe bloody diarrhoea with abdominal pain. These symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks. In some extreme cases serious problems can occur including kidney failure.

How Is It Caused?

It is caused by the E. coli bacteria entering the body through the mouth usually from unwashed hands and infected food or drink.  Only very low numbers of the bacteria need to be consumed to cause illness.

Possible routes of the infection are:-

  • Eating undercooked meat, particularly minced meat, often in the form of burgers
  • Drinking raw (green top) milk or treated milk that has become contaminated after it has been pasteurised
  • Contact with streams, ponds and similar watercourses
  • Drinking unchlorinated water
  • Infection from pets and farm animals

How Is It Spread?

Hands, kitchen surfaces and cooking utensils such as chopping boards and knives can become contaminated when preparing raw meat.  If not properly washed afterwards they can transfer bacteria onto other foods.  If these foods are ones that do not require further cooking before being eaten (a process that would normally kill off bacteria) this could cause food poisoning.

It can also be spread from person to person, both in families and in institutions such as schools and residential homes.

What Precautionary Measures Can I Take?

Thorough hand washing is vital:-

  • Before preparing or serving food or drink
  • After handling pets or their food bowls
  • After handling raw meat
  • Avoid swallowing water when participating in water sports.

Ensure good personal hygiene during farm visits or contact with farm animals.

Only drink mains or treated water and make sure that the water tank in your loft is covered to stop birds getting in.

Recommend not drinking unpasteurised milk

Keep all perishable foods in a fridge separating raw meat from other foods.

Ensure frozen foods are properly thawed before cooking.

Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly. Barbecues can be a particular problem.

Burgers should be cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink meat inside.

Keep kitchen surfaces and utensils clean. Wash chopping boards and knives used to prepare raw meat with a detergent and sanitizer after use.

Don't let pets or other animals in the kitchen when preparing food. Do not wash pets' food bowls with the family dishes.

Will I Need Treatment?

There is no specific treatment for this particular illness and the most appropriate medication will depend upon the symptoms being suffered. Your doctor will be able to advise you what is most appropriate in your case.

Do I Need To Submit Samples?

In some cases it may be necessary to collect specimens of faeces for analysis to confirm the presence of a pathogenic organism. The results can help in determining the possible source of an infection.

Where it is felt necessary to submit a faecal sample an Environmental Health Officer will contact you. You will be given a special container and full instructions on collecting a sample. The sample will be sent to the laboratory for analysis and you will be advised of the outcome.

Health Protection Agency Fact Sheet