Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short, is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of people and animals. Most forms of E. coli are not harmful, but some types can make you sick. One of the most common forms of E. coli that can cause disease is "Shiga Toxin-producing" E. coli, or STEC.
People usually start to have symptoms 3 to 4 days after accidentally drinking or eating something contaminated with E. coli. Symptoms include:
You should see your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:
There are many bacteria and viruses that can cause similar symptoms and illness, like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Norovirus. If you have been having symptoms for more than 48 to 72 hours you should see a doctor and submit a stool sample for testing.
E. coli infection starts when you accidentally eat or drink invisible amounts of human or animal feces (poop). This can happen when you:
Take these steps to help prevent E. coli infection:
If you work in food handling, healthcare, or child care and you have nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea:
Do not return to work until at least 24 hours after your symptoms have gone away. Illnesses with vomiting and diarrhea can spread easily from one person to another through food contaminated by a sick person or by touching shared surfaces like bathrooms and work spaces.
Antibiotics aren’t used to treat E. coli infection because they may increase your risk of complications. There is no real treatment for E. coli; instead, your healthcare provider will make sure that you’re getting enough fluids and don’t have any more serious symptoms.