Search Button
Divider Home Button

Fact sheet menu image

E. coli O157:H7

What is Escherichia coli 0157:H7?
What are the symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7?
How is E. coli 0157:H7 spread?
How can I keep from getting E. coli 0157:H7?
If I’ve been exposed to E. coli 0157:H7, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for E. coli 0157:H7? How serious is the disease?
What does the Health Department doing to prevent the spread of E. coli 0157:H7?
Where can I get more information on E. coli 0157:H7?

What is Escherichia coli 0157:H7?
E. coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.

What are the symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7?
E. coli O157:H7 infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps but sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Usually little or no fever is present, and the illness resolves in 5 to 10 days.

In some persons, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause complications that lead to kidney failure; however, only about 2 to 7 percent of infections lead to this complication.

How is E. coli 0157:H7 spread?Hamburger
E. coli O157:H7 infections can typically be traced back to cattle. Meat can become contaminated during slaughter, and organisms can be thoroughly mixed into beef when it is ground. Bacteria present on the cow's udders or on equipment may get into raw milk.

Eating meat, especially ground beef that has not been cooked sufficiently to kill E. coli O157:H7 can cause infection. Contaminated meat looks and smells normal. Although the number of organisms required to cause disease is not known, it is suspected to be very small.

Among other known sources of infection are consumption of sprouts, lettuce, salami, unpasteurized milk and juice, and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.

E. coli 0157:H7 can be passed from person-to-person if a person has the infection—even if they don’t have any symptoms—and proper hand washing procedures are not followed. This is particularly a problem for children in diapers.

How can I keep from getting E. coli 0157:H7?

If I’ve been exposed to E. coli 0157:H7, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
Symptoms usually occur within 2-3 days following exposure, but may occur as soon as 1 day following exposure or up to one week following exposure.

What treatments are available for E. coli 0157:H7? How serious is the disease?
Most persons with E. coli O157:H7 recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment in 5-10 days. There is no evidence that antibiotics improve the course of disease, and it is thought that treatment with some antibiotics may precipitate kidney complications. Antidiarrheal agents, such as Imodium, should also be avoided.

Generally, if people are hospitalized, it is due to dehydration, electrolyte depletion or for kidney complications.

What does the Health Department doing to prevent the spread of E. coli 0157:H7?
The Health Department investigates all cases of E. coli 0157:H7 to determine the source of the illness. Physicians’ offices and laboratories are required to report all cases of E. coli to the Health Department.

The Health Departmentalso works with local food operators and food service establishments to ensure that the food safety standards are met.

Where can I get more information on E. coli 0157:H7?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  the Food and Drug Administration or for more information on the Health Department’s programs, please call 859.341.4264.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration