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E coli

E coli is an infectious illness which can be food or water borne. Symptoms can range from mild diarrhoea to severe bloody diarrhoea with abdominal pain. These symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks. In extreme cases, the kidneys can fail.

Causes

Hands, kitchen surfaces and cooking utensils such as chopping boards and knives can become contaminated when preparing raw meat. If these are not properly washed they can transfer bacteria onto other foods. If these foods do not require further cooking (a process that would normally kill off bacteria) this could cause food poisoning.

E coli can also be spread from person to person, particularly in families, schools and residential homes.

Precautions

  • wash hands thoroughly before preparing or serving food or drink, after handling pets or their food bowls and after handling raw meat
  • avoid swallowing water when participating in water sports
  • drink mains or treated water. Make sure that the water tank in your loft is covered to stop birds getting in
  • do not drink untreated (green top) milk
  • keep all perishable foods in a fridge separating raw meat from other foods
  • ensure frozen foods are properly thawed before cooking
  • ensure foods are cooked thoroughly, particularly when barbecuing food. Burgers should be cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink meat inside
  • keep kitchen surfaces and utensils clean. Wash chopping boards and knives used to prepare raw meat with a detergent and sanitiser after use
  • do not let pets or other animals in the kitchen when preparing food. Do not wash food bowls with the family dishes

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for E coli. It may be necessary to collect specimens of faeces for further analysis.

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