Coli Bacteria


For those who follow the rules of good nutrition by eating healthy foods, the
rewards can be substantial. But it's also important that you clean and cook your
food properly. Because if you don't, certain microorganisms that hitchhike into
your stomach can make you feel miserable. E. coli is a bacteria that normally
live in the intestines of humans and animals. Although, most strains of this
bacteria are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause
diarrhea. One particular E. coli strain can cause severe diarrhea and kidney
damage E. coli made a notorious appearance at a fast-food restaurant chain about
three years ago, sickening hundreds and killing four children who ate
undercooked hamburgers. Experts estimate that E. coli causes as many as 20,000
infections and 250 deaths per year. The incidence of food-borne illness is
staggering. Physicians in the United States deal with 8.2 million cases
annually, a quarter of a million of which require hospitalization. The bacteria
is acquired by eating food containing the bacteria. The bacteria live in the
intestines of some healthy cattle, and contamination of the meat may occur in
the slaughtering process. Eating meat that is rare or inadequately cooked is the
most common way of getting the infection. Person-to-person transmission can
occur if infected people do not wash their hands after using the toilet. People
infected by E. coli can develop a range of symptoms. Some infected people may
have mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. Most identified cases develop severe
diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Blood is often seen in the stool. Usually little
or no fever is present. Most people recover without antibiotics or other
specific treatment in five to 10 days. The best course of action is to drink
plenty of liquids, rest, and avoid anti-diarrheal medication, which may actually
retard your ability to eliminate the bacteria. In children under five years of
age, the infection can cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

This is a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys
fail. Blood clotting factors as well as kidney dialysis may be necessary. Most
people recover completely, but it can be fatal. The best way to avoid illness
from beef at home is to cook the meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees

Fahrenheit, which will kill the organism. Though it may put a crimp in your
culinary style when you eat out, it's probably advisable to go for
"rare" and "medium rare." If your steak or burger still
looks too pink inside, send it back to the grill. Drink only pasteurized milk
and milk products. Make sure infected people, especially children, wash their
hands carefully with soap after using the toilet to reduce the risk of spreading
the disease.