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Cartersville Medical Center

Escherichia coli Infection


Escherichia coli ( E. coli ) infection is caused by a bacteria. It is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea.


This infection is caused by some types of the E. coli bacterium. Most E. coli infections are caused by:

  • Eating undercooked beef, especially ground beef
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk
  • Working with cattle
Digestive Pathway Through Stomach and Intestines
Digestive pathway
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Risk Factors

This condition is more common in children and older adults.

Factors that increase your chance of developing E. coli infection include:

  • People with another illness
  • Working with cattle
  • Living in northern states


Symptoms of E. coli infection include:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your waste material may be tested. This can be done with a stool culture.


Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:

Fluid Replacement and Monitoring

Most people will get better in 5-10 days. They rarely need a specific treatment. Avoid medication that stops diarrhea. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Fluids through an IV line may be needed in cases of severe dehydration .

Treatment for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

HUS is a life-threatening condition. It occurs in some people with E. coli infection. HUS may need to be treated with blood transfusions and kidney dialysis . Symptoms may include:

  • Pale complexion, tiredness, and irritability
  • Small, unexplained bruises, or bleeding from the nose or mouth—caused by problems in the body’s clotting mechanism
Kidney Dialysis
Dialysis pump
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To help prevent E. coli infection:

  • Cook all ground beef and hamburger thoroughly.
  • Avoid eating undercooked hamburger or other ground beef.
  • Keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they are exposed to raw meat.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, and cider.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Drink municipal water that has been treated with a disinfectant.
  • Wash hands after bowel movements and after changing soiled diapers.

Revision Information

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • Public Health Agency of Canada

  • E Coli infection. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated April 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

  • E. coli (Escherichia coli) . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated December 1, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

  • Frequently asked questions about Escherichia Coli infection. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2014.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Cartersville Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.