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E. coli in the USA

20 May 2019

The US Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that 196 people in ten states have now been affected by a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 linked to ground beef. Twenty-eight people have been hospitalised, two of these with haemolytic uraemic syndrome. So far, no deaths have been reported. The outbreak states are Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia

E. coli infection may be accompanied by: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headache and fever. The illness is usually self limiting over 3–5 days (up to 10 days with STEC)

There may be persistent diarrhoea lasting more than 2 weeks. Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome can be fatal and occurs in 4 – 10% of STEC infections.

Advice for Travellers

Prevention of E. coli and other forms of travellers' diarrhoea depends mainly upon practising good hand hygiene and effective food and water precautions.

  • Hands should be washed thoroughly before eating or handling food, and always after using the toilet.

    • Sanitising alcohol hand gel is an alternative when washing facilities are not available.

    • E. coli is destroyed if food is cooked thoroughly to internal temperatures of > 70oC.

Diarrhoea may occur even in travellers who stick strictly to food and water precautions; in many destinations the risk is determined by local food hygiene and sanitation practices.

For more information see Travellers' Diarrhoea.