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?

E. coli from the stool of infected persons can be spread by contact with, or drinking sewage-contaminated drinking water. This is now the concern in the flooded areas of New Orleans. It can also be spread to others if hygiene is inadequate. Another source of infection is from contaminated food, for example, from eating contaminated meat from animals infected with pathogenic E. coli.

How is E. coli diagnosed?

The diagnosis of E. coli infection is done by testing the stool for the presence of the bacteria.

How is E. coli treated?

Most infected people recover without specific treatment in 5 to 10 days. Antibiotics have not been shown to improve the course of the disease, and experts advise against taking antidiarrheal medications such as Imodium (loperamide).

For more, please read the E. coli article.

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