E. coli 0157:H7 is one of many strains of the bacteria Escherichia coli. Most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However, this strain can cause severe illness.
In some people, the infection can also cause the red blood cells to be destroyed and the kidneys to fail. About 2%-7% of infections result in this.
Transmission may be through water, but commonly the infection is transmitted through contaminated food. Inadequately cooked beef (particularly ground beef), raw milk, and fruits or vegetables that have been contaminated with feces from certain animals, are commonly responsible.
The bacteria may also be passed person to person through direct contact in families, childcare centres, and institutions.
Other ways people can get E. coli 0157:H7 are by drinking unpasteurized milk or juice, swimming in or drinking water contaminated by sewage.
The incidence of E. coliinfection in Nova Scotia peaked at 7.9 cases per 100,000 of the population in 1998 followed by a drop to 1.3 cases in 2004.
The symptoms include:
Usually there is little or no fever, and in some cases there is no blood in the diarrhea. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all.
Most people recover without antibiotics or other treatment in 5-10 days. There is no evidence that antibiotics help treat the disease.
Anyone with diarrhea should avoid swimming in public pools or lakes, sharing baths with others, preparing food for others, or providing personal care for others.