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If you have bloody diarrhea or diarrhea lasting three days or more, you might have an infection from a bacteria called E. coli O157:H7. This strain of E. coli can cause your kidneys to fail or be permanently damaged. Although this does not happen to most people, children under five and people over 65 are more at risk for kidney problems than other people. Since other bacterial infections can also cause bloody diarrhea, your doctor will need to order a special test to diagnose E. coli O157:H7.
Protecting yourself and your family from E. coli O157:H7
- Since meat with E. coli O157:H7 still looks and smells good, make sure ground beef is cooked until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. E. coli O157:H7 can survive in undercooked hamburger meat.
- After preparing meat dishes in the kitchen, use a bleach solution to sanitize your counters, utensils, cutting boards, and other surfaces used or touched in preparing the raw meats. You can make this solution by mixing one teaspoon of bleach with a quart of water.
- Use a different cutting board and utensils for fruits, vegetables, and breads from the one you use for meats. If you don't have extra boards and utensils, make sure you sanitize your one board and utensils well between uses. Following these steps will keep you from spreading E. coli O157:H7 from one food to another. Also be certain to wash organically grown vegetables and fruits well.
- Buy only pasteurized milk, dairy products, and juices. E. coli O157:H7 can live in raw milk and other liquids.
- Use safe water. Drink water from an approved public drinking water system, bottled water, or water that has been treated with chlorine or another disinfectant. Don't swim in water that has sewage in it as E. coli O157:H7 can live in untreated water.
- If anyone in your family or someone you know is already sick with E. coli O157:H7, make sure everyone washes his or her hands often with soap and warm water. People, especially children in diapers, can give E. coli O157:H7 to others.
Most people who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 are completely well within five to ten days. If you think you or one of your family members has an E. coli O157:H7 infection, call your doctor or clinic now. Ask your doctor to call your local health department at 1-800-705-8868 if he/she finds out the illness is from E. coli O157:H7.