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Understand e coli

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National Steak and Poultry, a meat processor based out of Owasso, Okla. is recalling about 248,000 pounds of beef due to potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7, the federal government announced on Dec 21. The recall came after the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state health agencies found an association between non-intact steaks and e. coli outbreaks in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. The following are some basics about e coli cited from http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/ecoli/

Outbreaks of foodborne disease caused by E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria have become a serious problem in this country. E. coli O157:H7, one type of the bacteria, has caused illness and major disease outbreaks in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 73,000 cases of infection with E. coli O157:H7 and 61 deaths occur in this country every year.


Overview

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Hundreds of E. coli strains are harmless, including those that thrive in the intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals. These strains are part of the protective microbial community in the intestine and are essential for general health. Other strains, such as E. coli serotype O157:H7, cause serious poisoning in humans. Cattle are the main sources of E. coli O157:H7, but these bacteria also are also in other domestic and wild mammals.

E. coli O157:H7 has caused major disease outbreaks in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 70,000 cases of infection with E. coli O157:H7 occur in this country every year. In 2007, it accounted for about 7% of gut-related diseases reported to health agencies in the United States. In addition to E. coli O157:H7, there are other serotypes of E. coli, named enterohemorrhagic E. coli, that cause the same serious illnesses.

E. coli O157:H7 can produce one or more kinds of poisons that can severely damage the lining of the intestines and kidneys. These types of bacteria, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), often causes bloody diarrhea and can lead to kidney failure, especially in young children or in people with weakened immune systems. Most illness has been associated with contaminated food or water, contact with an infected person, or contact with animals that carry the bacteria.

Other forms of E. coli that cause diarrheal disease include:

Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) is a leading bacterial cause of diarrhea in the developing world. Each year, about 210 million cases and 380,000 deaths occur, mostly in children, from ETEC, according to the World Health Organization. ETEC is the most common cause of traveler's diarrhea and affects troops on deployment overseas.
 Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) is a bacterial cause of persistent diarrhea that can last 2 weeks or more. It spreads to humans through contact with contaminated water or infected animals and is common in developing countries. In industrialized countries, the frequency of these organisms has decreased, but they continue to be an important cause of diarrhea, according to CDC.


Cause

While there are many types of E. coli bacteria, only certain types cause foodborne illness. Hundreds of harmless strains of E. coli can be found widely in nature, including the intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Disease-causing strains, however, are a frequent cause of both intestinal and urinary-genital tract infections.

In 1982, scientists identified the first harmful foodborne strain of E. coli in the United States. The disease-causing foodborne E. coli most commonly found in this country is called O157:H7, which refers to chemical compounds found on the bacterium’s surface. Cattle are the main sources of E. coli O157:H7, but these bacteria also can be found in other domestic and wild mammals.

Several different strains of harmful E. coli can cause diarrheal disease.

Particularly dangerous types of E. coli, such as E. coli O157:H7, produce one or more kinds of toxins (poisons) called Shiga toxins. Shiga toxins can severely damage the lining of your intestines and kidneys. These types of bacteria are called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). STEC often causes bloody diarrhea and can lead to kidney failure in children or in people with weakened immune systems.
Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), which produce a different toxin, can cause diarrhea. These strains typically cause so-called travelers’ diarrhea because they commonly contaminate food and water in developing countries.
Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) cause persistent diarrhea (lasting 2 weeks or more) and are more common in developing countries where they can be transmitted to humans through contaminated water or contact with infected animals.
Other types of E. coli, including O26:H11 and O111:H8, also have been found in the United States and can cause disease in people.


Transmission

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) occurs when people consume contaminated foods or liquids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service’s recall site lists food products contaminated with harmful E. coli.

The most common contaminated foods and liquids that have caused E. coli outbreaks include:

Undercooked or raw hamburgers
Salami
Produce such as spinach, lettuce, sprouted seeds
Unpasteurized milk, apple juice, and apple cider
Contaminated well water or surface water frequented by animals
STEC can also occur by:

Failure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water following contact with an infected animal or animal waste, this can occur at farms, petting zoos, fairs, or even in your own backyard.
Failure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water following contact with an infected person
Swallowing unchlorinated or underchlorinated water in swimming pools contaminated by human feces
Swimming in water with even very low levels of sewage contamination
Consuming contaminated food, water, or ice


Symptoms

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can cause the following symptoms:

Nausea
Severe abdominal cramps
Watery or very bloody diarrhea
Fatigue
STEC can also cause low-grade fever or vomiting. Symptoms usually begin from 2 to 5 days after eating contaminated food, or drink contaminated liquids. Symptoms may last for 8 days and most people recover completely from the disease.


Diagnosis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing anyone who suddenly develops diarrhea with symptoms of bloody stool. Health care providers use lab tests to identify Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in stool samples.


Treatment

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early supportive therapy is important for patients, especially those diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).There is no evidence that treatment with antibiotics is helpful, and taking antibiotics may increase the risk of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a serious complication of STEC that can lead to kidney failure.


Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to prevent Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection:

Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom or changing diapers
Wash your hands thoroughly after handling animals, animal bedding, or any material contaminated with animal fecal matter
Eat only thoroughly cooked ground beef, pork, sheep meat or sausage.
Cook ground meat products to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit
Avoid unpasteurized milk and juices
Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating raw
Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods


Complications

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a serious complication of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, can lead to kidney failure and death. Children are particularly prone to this complication, and HUS is the most common cause of acute kidney failure In North America. Blood transfusions and kidney dialysis, performed in the intensive care unit of a hospital, is needed to treat this life-threatening condition.

About 8 percent of people with HUS have other lifelong complications, such as high blood pressure, seizures, blindness, paralysis, and the effects of having part of their intestines removed.

(Send your news to foodconsumer.org@gmail.com, Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)

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