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How can E. coli make me sick?

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While many of us associate E. coli with food poisoning, you can also get pneumonia, breathing problems, and urinary tract infections from different types of the bacteria. In fact, 75% to 95% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli.

Some versions of E. coli make you sick by making a toxin called Shiga. This toxin damages the lining of your intestine. The strains of E. coli that make the toxin are sometimes called STEC, which is short for “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.”

One especially bad strain, O157:H7, can make you very sick. It causes abdominal cramps, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. It is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children. It can also cause life-threatening symptoms such as:

You should get emergency help if you have any of these symptoms.

  • Adult kidney failure
  • Fever
  • Bleeding
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

From: What is E. Coli? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

CDC: “E. coli.”

Johns Hopkins Health Library: “Escherichia coli O157:H7,” “Escherichia coli.”

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: “E. coli.”

Mayo Clinic: “Diseases and Conditions -- E. coli.”

KidsHealth.org (Nemours Foundation): “E. coli.”

World Health Organization: “E. coli Fact Sheet.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on December 21, 2016

SOURCES:

CDC: “E. coli.”

Johns Hopkins Health Library: “Escherichia coli O157:H7,” “Escherichia coli.”

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: “E. coli.”

Mayo Clinic: “Diseases and Conditions -- E. coli.”

KidsHealth.org (Nemours Foundation): “E. coli.”

World Health Organization: “E. coli Fact Sheet.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on December 21, 2016

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