E. coli infection probably is not
diagnosed or reported nearly as often as it occurs. Health officials in the
United States estimate that the E. coli strain O157:H7
causes 73,000 infections and 61 deaths nationally each year.1 Currently, most states require that all cases of severe
bloody diarrhea (hemorrhagic colitis) be reported to their health departments
to help identify outbreaks.
It is not known how common the infection is in
other countries. Outbreaks in Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and other
European countries suggest that E. coli O157:H7
infection is a worldwide problem.
Most cases of food poisoning are mild, lasting from one to three days. Since many people do not seek medical care, their food poisoning is not diagnosed.
Though your symptoms may sound suspicious, the only way to know for sure if you have food poisoning is to test the offending food or check the stool, blood, or vomit.
Chemical or toxin food poisoning can usually be diagnosed by a description of symptoms and by testing food potentially responsible for the poisoning.