What You Need to Know About E. Coli

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria. Certain strains are harmless, however, others can have dangerous effects. Strains of E. coli include:

  • STEC: This strain creates a toxin called Shiga that damages the lining of the intestine which in turn leads to illness.
  • O157:H7: This dangerous strain often causes severe, acute hemorrhagic diarrhea. In some cases, particularly children under five years of age the infection can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome(HUS), in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. 

What is E. Coli

This bacteria is known to live in the intestines of humans, but it can also be found in the guts of some animals. You can contract E. coli by drinking contaminated water or by eating foods that contain the bacteria. Foods that could carry the bacteria include ground meat, untreated and unpasteurised liquids and dairy products as well as unwashed fruit and vegetables. If you take care of and/or clean up after a child or adult who is infected you could get the disease if you don’t wash your hands well enough before eating or touching your mouth. Animals can also pass on the disease.

coli is generally associated with , but different types of the bacteria can also lead to , and urinary tract infections.

Factors to Consider

The rainy season in Nigeria starts off towards the end of February in the southern, coastal areas of the country and continues until early March. It then travels north, where it can last throughout September, during which time it reaches most areas.

Any amount of rain, but predominately heavy rains, can impact E. coli levels in rivers, lakes and ponds. Animal droppings on the ground (from birds, livestock, pets or wild animals) are known to elevate E. coli concentrations when stormwater carries it into local water sources in cities and rural areas. Higher levels of E. coli in summer might be attributed to the higher temperature, however sunlight can kill some of the pathogens. If sewage plants have overflows the threat can increase significantly.

What are the Symptoms of E. Coli

Symptoms of E. coli can include the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Very bloody diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal cramps

Some strains cause sickness and diarrhea, or traveller’s diarrhea.

Apart from vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the most dangerous type of E. coli (the O157:H7 strain) has life-threatening symptoms that include confusion, fever, seizures, bleeding and failure. Children and adults with weak immune systems are most at risk.

If you experience any of theses alarming symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.

How Can E. Coli Infection be Prevented?

The most basic preventative measures have to do with hygiene and proper food preparation. This involves:

  • Cooking meat well
  • Handling food with clean hands
  • Keeping raw and cooked foods separate
  • Avoiding unpasteurised milk and juices
  • Cleaning food before eating or cooking it
  • Washing all kitchen items and food preparation areas with hot, soapy water
  • NOT swallowing water that could possibly be contaminated with animal or human waste

You should always wash your hands after:

  • Touching animals
  • Changing a diaper
  • Using the bathroom
  • Working with raw meat

Also remember to wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food/bottles for infants, toddlers or children
  • Touching items that infants/toddlers/children put in their mouths

Some cases of intestinal E. coli infection are treatable at home and symptoms generally resolve within five to ten days. However, you can never be too safe when it comes to hygiene and food preparation, especially during the upcoming rainy season.

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If you have any questions about E. coli, or if you want to book an appointment for a general check-up, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

Email: enquiries@thebridgeclinic.com
Call:    01 631 0092 / +234 (0)1 631 0092

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