E. coli Infections: What You and Your Family Need to Know
Frequently Asked Questions About E. coli
Source: Health Canada
Q: What is E. coli?
- Did you know? Intestinal illness can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites, and usually involves vomiting and diarrhea. People often call it the flu, though it is in no way related to the influenza virus, which causes respiratory illness.
Q: How do people get sick?
- raw and undercooked meat, especially ground beef
- contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, including sprouts
- untreated water
- unpasteurized (raw) milk and (raw) milk products, including raw milk cheese
- unpasteurized apple juice/cider
Finally, you can be infected with E. coli through contact with the feces (stool) of infected people or with cattle or other farm animals (including at petting zoos and fairs).
- Fast fact: You cannot tell the difference between contaminated and non-contaminated food by the way it looks, smells, or tastes. Safe food handling and cooking practices are key to preventing foodborne illness.
Q: What are the symptoms and treatment?
- severe stomach cramps
- watery or bloody diarrhea
- little or no fever
Q: How do I avoid getting sick?
These tips will help protect you and your family from E. coli:
- Cook food to a safe internal temperature using a digital thermometer.
- Do not eat hamburger patties that are pink in the middle. If served an undercooked hamburger, send it back for further cooking. Ask for a new bun and a clean plate, too.
- Avoid spreading harmful bacteria. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods. Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they have come in contact with raw meat. Never place cooked hamburgers on the unwashed plate that held raw patties. Wash thermometers in between testing patties.
- Eat and drink only pasteurized juice, cider, milk and milk products.
- Drink water from a safe (treated or boiled) supply.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean, safe running water before you prepare and eat them. Use a brush to scrub produce with firm or rough surfaces, like oranges, cantaloupes, potatoes and carrots.
- Wash your hands after contact with animals (at home, farms, petting zoos and fairs).
- Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.
- If you think you are infected with E. coli bacteria or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not prepare food for other people.
- Food safety tip: Pasteurization destroys E. coli O157:H7 and other harmful bacteria. Food safety experts don't recommend unpasteurized products, particularly for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Also, these safe food practices will reduce your risk of contracting E. coli disease and other foodborne illnesses.