Have you ever eaten a hearty meal only to feel a moment later that your stomach’s turning upside down? If ground beef and raw veggies are part of your meal, then chances are, you may have contracted E. coli. Know more how food safety measures can help you battle and prevent this almost inevitable foodborne pathogen.
Escherichia coli is a bacteria that lives in our intestines. It is part of the healthy digestive systems of humans and animals. However, a particular strain, E. coli O157:H7 is to blame for making you feel ill, causing you to vomit, have severe stomach cramps and excrete bloody stool.
What are the health risks associated with E. coli illness that I should know about?
The symptoms of E. coli would usually manifest three to four days of its incubation period. Sometimes, it may even take a week before the person gets sick from the illness. E. coli would clear on its own within a week as long as the adult person afflicted is healthy. Children and elderly people, as well as people with weakened immune systems however may take longer to recover from E. coli illness. They are also at the risk of developing a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
How is E. coli infection diagnosed and treated?
The bacteria will be isolated from a clinical specimen (stool) to accurately determine the presence of E. coli bacteria in your system. There’s really no treatment that can directly cure the infection; just measures that can ease the symptoms and prevent complications.
The best way to get rid of E. coli is by getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration. Also, avoid eating dairy products, fatty foods, high-fiber and sugary foods, and drinking coffee and alcohol.
How can you prevent the spread of E. coli infection?
Observing proper food safety practices can make a difference in preventing the spread of E. coli illness. As mentioned earlier, E. coli persists in undercooked meat and raw produce. The bacteria is also present in contaminated water and unpasteurized milk. Here are some things to avoid to prevent cross-contamination and getting ill from E. coli:
- Do not eat pink or slightly cooked meat. Make sure that meat is cooked well until it has browned. If you have a thermometer, check the internal temperature of the meat. Make sure that it’s properly cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not drink unpasteurized milk, juice and cider.
- Separate raw food from cooked food. Pack and store raw and cooked foods in sealed plastic and containers. Do not use the same plate where you put cooked food and raw food.
- Thoroughly wash raw produce. Rinsing fresh fruits and produce repeatedly with water can help get rid of dirt and bacteria present in them
- Wash utensils properly. Wash knives, cutting boards and utensils every time you use them on raw meat, veggies and fruits to avoid cross-contamination.
- Observe proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm soapy water before handling food, cooking or eating. Make sure to wash your hands as well especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, cleaning the litter box or being in contact with animals.
If you have time, you can also enroll in a food safety training class to learn about proper food handling and preparation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a housewife or a food enthusiast: You don’t have to work for a food establishment to obtain a food safety training and learn a thing or two about food safety.