It doesn't happen often. But most summers, several Americans -- usually healthy, young people -- suffer sudden, tragic deaths from a brain-eating amoeba.
What is this scary bug? How does it get to the brain? Where is it and how can I avoid it? WebMD answers these and other questions.
When did diarrhea begin, how long has it
lasted, and how frequent are bowel movements?
Is there blood in the
diarrhea? If so, how much?
Have you had chills or a
Have you had any abdominal cramps, nausea, or
Do you feel tired or irritable?
fainted or felt lightheaded?
Infection with E. coli is easily
other conditions with similar symptoms, such as other infectious
A doctor may suspect you have E. coli infection if you have been exposed to the bacteria. During the
medical history, your doctor may ask if you have:
Been in a day care center, school, nursing
home, or other adult care institution.
Eaten recently at a
Consumed any undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk, dairy products, or
Had contact with
anyone with recent or ongoing diarrhea.
Used antibiotics recently.
During the physical examination, a doctor will
Take your temperature.
blood pressure and determine your pulse rate.
Look at your skin
color to see whether you are unusually pale.
Check your stomach for
Perform a rectal exam to find out whether you have
blood in your stool.
Doctors who suspect E. coli
infection will order a type of
stool culture that detects strains of E. coli. Because the bacteria can leave the body in only a few
days, the sample should be obtained as soon as possible after symptoms
Other tests are sometimes used when the diagnosis is
unclear, but these are not yet widely available.
If a child or
older adult is diagnosed with E. coli infection, he or
she may be watched for development of
severe blood or kidney problems. Monitoring requires
blood and urine tests to measure essential elements of blood and body