Friday, June 17, 2011

E. Coli: What are the health risks?

Every few years it is not uncommon to hear on the news about an overwhelming outbreak of E.coli contamination of meat or vegetables. Most recently there was an outbreak in Germany which was attributed to contaminated vegetables. Such unfortunate instances of the consumption  of bacterium tainted foods contribute to serious illness and death for many people. What do you need to know to protect yourself and family.

In this article, we will examine E. coli and the health risks.
 
What is E. coli?
 
E. coli or Escherichia coli is a very common bacterium usually found in the intestines of humans and animals. Usually the strains found in the intestinal tracts of humans are not harmful. Actually, there are hundreds of strains:  many are harmless, others are potentially fatal.
 
The most notorious risk to health is E.coli O157:H7.  This distinctive name refers to the chemical compounds found on the surface of the bacterium.  This strain was discovered in 1982 after an outbreak of diarrhea after eating undercooked beef.
 
This E.coli O157:H7  belongs to a bacterium group known as "Shiga producing" or STEC which is also called veracytoxic enterohemorrhagic E. coli. Which means that it causes bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps .

What are the symptoms?

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli symptoms include damage to the lining of the instestine.  The result is severe and bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever.

How is it tramsmitted?

The source of E. coli O157:H7 is healthy cattle.  During slaughter the meat can become contaminated  with this bacterium.  Also, in the fringding of meat contaminatino is possible.

Also,  vegetables where cow manure is used for fertilization, can cause contamination.  This is particularly so when raw vegetables such as spinach, alfalfa,  sprouts are consumed..

Also, E. coli can be transmitted in nursing homes and hospitals when care givers hands become contaiminated with feces.  If proper handwashing is not maintained, contamination and transmission to other patients can easily occur. (Even when gloves are worn it is necessary to wash hands after removal)
Prevention

Heating all meats  such as hanburger, sausage and ham to 167 degrees Fahrenheit for one minute. 

Carefully wash hands and cooking surfaces.  Wash vegetables thoroughly. Do not cross contaminate cutting surfaces.  Wash the knife and cutting board after cutting meat up.

Source:

"E. coli"http://www.medicinenet.com/
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