Early Symptoms of E. Coli Infection
Early symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection usually appear about three to five
days after a person ingests the bacteria. Symptoms of E. coli infection are
- stomach cramps, and
- diarrhea that often is bloody.
What is E. coli?
E. coli is a species of bacteria that are gram-stain negative and rod shaped. E. coli commonly live in the intestines of healthy individuals. The complete scientific name of the bacteria is termed Escherichia coli. Most E. coli are harmless to humans, but a few strains of the bacteria can cause symptoms of severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, dehydration and if not treated, can lead to shock and death. E. coli can cause urinary tract infections, meningitis, pneumonia, abdominal infections as well as sinusitis, osteomyelitis, and sepsis.
Is E. coli contagious?
Some E. coli bacteria are contagious while others are not, depending on the E. coli strain and/or the infection type. Some strains that cause gastrointestinal problems (enteropathogenic E. coli) can be transmitted person-to-person, usually by the oral/fecal route, and even indirectly by contaminated food or water. The E. coli organisms can survive on contaminated utensils and other household items for short time periods. Foods that are sources for diarrhea-causing E. coli include:
- contaminated meat (raw or undercooked),
- unpasteurized milk, and
- raw fruits and vegetables.
In addition, water can be contaminated with E. coli. This can be the source of infection through swimming, drinking, consuming ice and eating any food washed with or exposed to contaminated water.
Other E coli strains that may cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), for example, are not considered to be contagious. Casual contact (shaking hands, kissing) will not usually transmit E. coli person to person. However, some strains of E. coli, including the diarrhea-causing enteropathogenic strains, can be contagious.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2016