Grand Forks Public Health Department

Health Information

Grand Forks Public Health Department > Health Information > Ecoli

E.COLI 0157:H7 Brochure

What is E. Coli?

E. Coli 0157:H7 is a strain of bacteria that produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.

How is E. Coli spread?

Eating meat, especially ground beef, that has not been thoroughly cooked, can cause infection. Other known sources are sprouts, unpasteurized milk, juice and drinking contaminated water. The bacteria can also be passed from one person to another f hand washing is inadequate. This is particularly likely among toddlers who are not toilet trained.

What illness does E. Coli Cause?

E. Coli 0157:H7 often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In some persons, particularly small children, the infection can cause a complication which leads to kidney failure.

How is E. Coli Diagnosed?

Infection with E. Coli is diagnosed by detecting the bacterium in the stool. All persons who suddenly have bloody diarrhea should consult their physician and have their stood tested for E. Coli.

How is the illness treated?

Most persons recover without specific treatment in 5-10 days.
Treatment with antibiotics is of little value. Persons with complications may require blood transfusions and kidney dialysis.

What can you do to prevent E. Coli infection?
  • Cook all ground beef or hamburger thoroughly. Ground beef should be cook to 160 degrees F using a digital instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the burger.
  • If you are served an undercooked hamburger in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
  • Consume only pasteurized milk, juice or cider. Avoid raw milk.
  • Wash utensils and work areas with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before preparing food, after handling raw foods, and after using the bathroom.
  • Drink water from a safe source. Do not consume water from open springs or streams.
  • Never thaw food at room temperature or allow food to sit out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.
  • Place cooked food on a clean plate for serving. Never use the same unwashed plate that held the raw food.
  • Wash fruits and vegetable thoroughly, especially those that will not be cooked.