E. Coli in New Orleans Flood Waters

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short, is a very common bacterium. There are hundreds of different strains of E. coli. Some are harmless while others cause serious illness.

Non-pathogenic strains of E. coli -- those that do not cause disease -- are normal inhabitants of the intestinal tract in humans and animals. But certain strains of E. coli can cause severe diarrhea and infect the genital and urinary tracts.

What are E. coli symptoms?

The symptoms of E. coli include:

How is E. coli spread?