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1 E. coli O157 Information for you Follow us on Find us on Facebook at Visit our website: All our publications are available in other formats

2 What is it? E. coli are a type of bacteria normally found in the human intestine. Most E. coli bacteria are quite harmless. However, a strain of this bacteria known as E. coli O157 produces toxins (poisons) that can sometimes cause serious illness in humans. Where does E. coli O157 come from? This bacteria lives in the intestines of farm and wild animals, especially sheep and cattle, without causing the animals to be ill. Is it infectious? Yes. The bacteria can be spread through contact with farm animals, animal manure or by touching something which has been contaminated by animal droppings. It can also be spread through contaminated or undercooked food, contaminated water or the stool (faeces) of infected people. It can be spread from person to person within households, nurseries, and similar groups involving young children, especially where hygiene has been poor. It is spread by swallowing the bacteria that are on contaminated hands, food or water. Only a small number of bacteria are needed for someone to become ill. 2

3 What are the symptoms? Symptoms associated with E. coli O157 infection can occur from one to ten days after swallowing the bacteria. However, most people develop symptoms within two to four days. Some infected people may have no symptoms. Symptoms may include: abdominal pain and stomach cramp; diarrhoea (sometimes with blood in it); nausea and/or vomiting; fever (this is uncommon); and tiredness. Rare complications include kidney and blood clotting problems in the very young and very old. These complications can occur in the first 14 days after the onset of illness but not normally after that. How is the diagnosis made? The illness is usually identified by finding the bacteria (E. coli O157) in a stool (faeces) specimen. It can also be diagnosed by a blood test but this is less common. 3

4 What is the treatment? There is no specific treatment. In most cases the infection will normally settle within five to ten days. People affected should: drink plenty of fluids, particularly if you have diarrhoea; and take plenty of rest, especially if feeling unwell. Antibiotics are not normally given for this illness as they can increase the amount of toxin released when they destroy the E. coli bacteria. People infected with E. coli O157 will normally have some blood tests taken to check complications are not developing. In severe cases the complications may require special treatments. Should I see my family doctor (GP)? You should consult your family doctor (GP) if one or more of the following applies to you: there is blood in your diarrhoea; you have severe abdominal pain; and / or the diarrhoea has lasted for 48 hours. 4

5 How can infection be prevented? Good handwashing is essential. Wash hands thoroughly: after using the toilet; after changing nappies or helping young children to wash; when hands are visibly soiled; before handling or eating food; after handling raw meat; after contact with animals and their faeces; after gardening, sports activities and cleaning soiled clothing/footwear; and after contact with buildings, vehicles or machinery which can be splashed with dung, slurry or manure. Make sure meat is always thoroughly cooked. Use separate chopping boards for cooked and uncooked meats, and raw vegetables. Store cooked meats in the fridge separately from raw meat. Do not drink unpasteurised milk or eat unpasteurised dairy products. Never drink from streams or rivers. Owners of private water supplies should ensure they are properly maintained. 5

6 If you or a member of your family have E. coli O157 infection, make sure the toilet and bathrooms fittings (toilet pan, flush handle, taps, door handle) are cleaned every day, and when visibly soiled. Using disposable cloths, wash with hot soapy water and then wipe with a solution of household bleach. Follow the manufacturer s instructions. Surfaces should be rinsed with clean water and dried thoroughly after cleaning/disinfection. Remember - keep all chemical cleaning / disinfection agents away from children If anyone in your home has E. coli O157 infection, set aside a towel for their own personal use. Wash used towels in a washing machine every day. Can I still go to work or school? All people with diarrhoea should remain off work or school until they are feeling well and have had no symptoms for 48 hours. People who have been ill, and possibly their close contacts, may need to be excluded from work or school if they are in one of the following groups: pre-school children; people who work with food; and healthcare staff and other carers (residential home staff, for example). 6

7 The Public Health Department and the Environmental Health Department will advise if anyone has to be excluded from work, pre-school nursery or school. Can I go swimming? Anyone who has been excluded from work, school or nursery and children who are under five years of age, should not go swimming until the Public Health Department has advised that you are now clear. All other people who have E coli 0157 should not go swimming until they have been completely free from symptoms for at least 48 hours. For more information on E. coli O157 please contact NHS Ayrshire & Arran s Public Health Department by calling

8 All of our publications are available in different languages, larger print, braille (English only), audio tape or another format of your choice. Tha gach sgrìobhainn againn rim faotainn ann an diofar chànanan, clò nas motha, Braille (Beurla a-mhàin), teip claistinn no riochd eile a tha sibh airson a thaghadh Tell us what you think... If you would like to comment on any issues raised by this document, please complete this form and return it to: Communications Department, 28 Lister Street, University Hospital Crosshouse, Crosshouse KA2 0BB. You can also us at: If you provide your contact details, we will acknowledge your comments and pass them to the appropriate departments for a response. Name Address Comment Last reviewed: November 2014 Leaflet reference: MIS GD

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