E.Coli — What to Look For

Just about the time one thinks there are no threats of E. coli sicknesses, the news explodes with new cases and sources. In September, 2014 news has come out regarding E. coli cases on the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington (Pacific Northwest Children) and the south in Kentucky (Five Kentucky Children) Two of the children in the Pacific Northwest, and five children in Kentucky all are suffering from kidney disease that is usually caused by E. coli, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This disease can cause kidney failure and the need for dialysis and can occur after two days to two weeks of E. coli infection.

E. coli is bacteria found in water or food, with the ability to transfer via drinking unpasteurized milk or eating undercooked meat. Raw sprouts and produce have also been culprits. It can be passed along through person to person (i.e. hand) contact when hands are not washed after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. It caused an infection that can be fatal, especially in children or the older population. It often takes much time to track down the source of a new outbreak of E. coli concentrated to specific areas of the country. For instance, in Oregon it was first thought that three of the stricken children had all eaten at the same restaurant, something that strikes fear in any restaurant owner, but that restaurant was ruled out and it was released that the children all attended the same birthday party at a park, played in the same pond, were around a goat and other animals, and all ate watermelon and cupcakes purchased at the same store. Even when the goat droppings in common tested positively for E. coli, investigators were still unable to pinpoint whether it was the same strain the children suffered.

With the variety of possible sources of E. coli the average person might be wondering what to look for in regards to the infection’s symptoms in order to err on the side of safety. First, know that children, especially those younger than 5, are the most likely to be infected and display symptoms. Elderly people, when stricken by such an infection, can also suffer severe repercussions from E. coli. The biggest symptom is diarrhea, which can go from watery to bloody. Fever is another symptom, although less prevalent. The signs that an individual has developed the kidney disease of HUS include fatigue, less urination, slow or dulled responsiveness, limb swelling, or unusual bruising. When in full effect, HUS can cause symptoms of seizures, altered mental status, confusion, severe fatigue, dehydration, and neurological issues (Signs and Symptoms). It is imperative that when an individual suspects E. coli infection, an E. coli test is specifically requested when presenting to a medical provider, as many providers will not order one even when a patient is experiencing extremely serious diarrhea symptoms. Such tests require a stool sample from the patient that is sent to a laboratory to test for a poison produced by harmful E. coli strains, shiga toxin, and it is also recommended that labs do the additional culture test to check for E. coli bacteria.

There could be some help on the horizon for those suffering from E. coli infections. Harvard University is working on a device that would work just like the human spleen to fight deadly pathogens, including E. coli, but also including Ebola and others. This device is called the biospleen and can filter infected blood by utilizing magnetic nanobeads coated with human protein that has been specifically genetically engineered to fight pathogens. The patient gets cleansed blood from the device and could be an important turn of events in the fight against pathogens, such as E. coli, that fight the person’s natural immune system. A timeline has not been given for its possible use, but experimental studies with rats have seen success, with 89% of rats treated with the device surviving.
If you suspect an E. coli infection, do not hesitate to present to your medical provider and be very assertive in requesting E. coli tests. You may also need to consult with a well-respected law firm to find out what compensation may be due as a result of an E. coli infection and its effects.