Escherichia coli, or more commonly known from its abbreviated form E.coli, are a type of bacteria found in the environment, food, water, and in the intestines of humans and other animals such as cattle and pig (Ferens, W. & Hovde, C. (2011). Most strains or types of E.coli are relatively safe, but there are certain strains that can be dangerous and cause sicknesses such as E.coli O157:H7 and Enterotoxigenic E.coli (ETEC). E.coli O157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death through release and production of the Shiga Toxin. This bacteria is one of the most commonly known Shiga Toxin-Producing E.coli (STEC) (CDC, 2015). Enterotoxigenic E.coli (ETEC) is another strain known to cause watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps through the release and production of two toxins, heat-stable toxin and a heat-labile toxin (CDC, 2014). Humans are commonly infected with ETEC or STEC through consumption of contaminated food or water or having direct contact with infected animals or humans (Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), 2016). Anyone can be infected with E.coli, but the very young and elderly are at the most risk to develop a serious illness.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Symptoms are different for each person, but once a person is infected they may experience severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (bloody or watery), and vomiting. Less common symptoms include fever, nausea, loss of appetite, headache, muscle aches and bloating (CDC, 2015). The incubation period can vary from 1 to 10 days after exposure, but on average a person may display symptoms 3-4 days after infection (CDC, 2015). Some infections may take longer to appear and heal depending on their severity and type.
Infection is diagnosed thro...
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... was in 2006. In Canada, the annual average is approximately 440 cases; while in the United States it was approximately 390 cases (PHAC, 2015; Library, 2016). E.coli outbreaks are frequently reported in news outlets such as CNN. In one CNN article, they outlined 13 major outbreaks of a few strains of E.coli since 1992 (Library, 2016). E.coli O157:H7 was the strain with the highest number of outbreaks reported and was found predominantly in beef products. Although beef was found to be the most common source of E.coli, other foods such as cheese, spinach, and flour were mentioned as well. Due to these outbreaks, thousands of contaminated food were recalled and taken out of stores and restaurants (Library, 2016).
Since E.coli is commonly found in plenty of food products, one should be careful of what they put in their mouth and to always wash their hands.
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