About E. coli

Escherichia coli or E. coli is a type of bacterium that lives in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. While many strains of E. coli are harmless, some strains are capable of producing a powerful toxin, known as Shiga toxin, and can cause severe, life-threatening illness. These pathogenic strains of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are often referred to as “STEC.”

E. coli O157:H7 is a STEC strain linked to numerous deadly food poisoning outbreaks in the United States. It was first recognized as a cause of foodborne illness in 1982, following an outbreak of bloody diarrheal disease that was eventually linked to eating E. coli O157:H7 contaminated hamburgers.

Symptoms of E. coli infection may include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. Sometimes a low-grade fever is present. Children and the elderly are at greatest risk for suffering complications resulting from E. coli infection, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and thrombocytopenia purpura (TTP).

Although the public may be most familiar with outbreaks linked to E. coli O157:H7, recently, non-O157:H7 STEC strains have been in the news. For example, in 2013 a total of 35 persons were infected with E. coli (STEC) O121 after eating contaminated frozen foods; and in 2012 a total of 29 persons were infected with E. coli (STEC) O26 as a result of eating contaminated sprouts.

Annual Number of E. coli Foodborne Infections – In their report on foodborne illnesses*, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 63,000 persons are infected with STEC O157:H7 and 113,000 persons are infected with STEC non-O157 in the US each year. These illnesses result in about 2,100 hospitalizations and 20 E. coli related deaths annually.

Foods Associated with E. coli Food PoisoningE. coli foodborne illness is often associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef and other meat products. Other sources of infection may include non-pasteurized milk and juice, sprouts, leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach, swimming in sewage-contaminated lakes and pools, and drinking inadequately chlorinated water.

Person-to-person contact in families, childcare centers, and nursing homes is also an important mode of transmission. Bacteria in the stools of infected individuals can be passed from one person to another if hygiene or hand washing habits are inadequate.

Diagnosing a Foodborne Illness – If you suspect that you are suffering from a foodborne illness, it is important to contact your doctor or health care professional. A diagnosis of E. coli foodborne illness can usually be confirmed by performing a stool culture that can detect the presence of the pathogenic bacterium in an infected individual’s stool.

Obtain a Free Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation

If you or a family member has suffered from food poisoning, and you have a question about your legal rights, you can request a free case evaluation from our firm by clicking on E. coli Lawsuit. You may also call us toll free at 877-934-6274. Our phones are answered 24/7.

*Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States-Major Pathogens: Scallan, E.; Hoekstra, R.M.; Angulo, F.M.; Tauxe, R.V.; Widdowson, M-A; Roy, S.L.; Jones, J.L.; Griffin, P.M.: Emerging Infectious Deseases, www.cdc.gov/eid Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2011.


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