E. Coli Symptoms and Types

The full expanded term of E. Coli is Escherichia coli (E. Coli) O157. We also call it VTEC sometimes. It is a bacterial infection. The bacteria live in the intestine of humans and animals. Typically, the bacteria are harmless and help digest food. Some E. Coli can be leading dangerous complications if left untreated.

E. Coli is rod-shaped, belonging to the family of Enterobacteriaceae, and can survive in an environment with or without air. The bacteria live in the intestine of healthy people of all ages, and warm-blooded animals, helping the digestion of food.

E. Coli can cause severe pain in the stomach, diarrhea, and sometimes kidney failure. We can find E. Coli in the gut and feces of animals, specifically cattle. Sometimes, it could be a cause of gastroenteritis.

Types of E. Coli O157 Causing Diarrhea

Mainly six types of E. Coli O157 cause diarrhea −

1. STEC - Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli

We commonly call this train E. Coli food contaminating bacteria, known as EHEC (enterohemorrhagic E. Coli) and VTEC (verocytotoxin-producing E. Coli).

The most common strain of E. Coli produces a toxin called Shiga that makes you ill by harming the small intestine lining and thus cursing diarrhea.

These strains are STECs well known in North America termed E. Coli O157:H7 or, commonly, E. Coli O157.

We know other types of STEC as non-O157 STEC. Non-O157 STEC strains cause illnesses similar to that of O157 STEC but are not likely to cause serious complications.

2. ETEC - Enterotoxigenic E. Coli

This strain causes travelers’ diarrhea.

3. EAEC - Enteroaggragative E. Coli

4. EIEC - Enteroinvasiv E. Coli

5. EPIC - Enteropathogenic

6. DAEC - Diffusely Adherent E. Coli

E. Coli O157 Risk Factors

You can get affected by eating contaminated food, raw leafy vegetables, and uncooked or undercooked meat. Always wash vegetables and salad leaves (to be eaten raw) thoroughly with baking soda and salt and then with fresh flowing water.

Cook the raw vegetables well after washing them or eat them if labeled “ready to eat.” Washing with baking soda and salt may eliminate pesticides, harmful bacteria, fungi, and infections, but not completely. Cooking is good as heat again kills some of them.

Touching infected animals as we pet dogs, cats, cattle, rabbits, and other animals, we caress them and get in contact with their feces accidentally or while washing.

Coming in close contact with people carrying the disease, not regularly washing hands thoroughly with sanitizers, or after using the same toilet or before having food.

Drinking water from the contaminated or infected water supply or the supply of water from untreated sources

Common areas like a swimming pool or being in the same contaminated or infected water, playing water games in blocked water bodies like ponds, reservoirs, etc.

Who E. Coli can Affect the Most

Whoever comes in close contact with any person or object carrying the disease-causing strain of the bacteria E. Coli O157 can get the infection.

The most who are at a higher risk of getting the bacteria include −

  • Newborns, babies, children, and the very young ones

  • The elderly

  • People with weak immunity and comorbidities like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension, HIV, pregnant women, etc.

  • You travel to certain countries with a history of E. Coli O157 diseases.

E. Coli Infection Symptoms

Typically, the symptoms last 3-4 days, but recurrence may begin 1-14 days afterward. People can see the following symptoms continue for up to 2 weeks.

  • Cramps and pain in the stomach

  • Diarrhea - both watery and bloody

  • Bloody diarrhea (half of the infected people will have the symptoms)

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea & vomiting

  • Appetite loss

  • Fever less than 101 degrees F/38.5 degrees C (less common)

Hemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) is a severe but rare condition in E. Coli O157 infection. It is as dangerous as leading to kidney failure and death. We find HUS among children under five years. Some may get infected with no symptoms.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

Children under five years infected with STEC (O157:H7) develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) conditions of E. Coli infection. STEC toxin produces diarrhea in its severe form, which is bloody.

The toxins travel into the bloodstream, destroying RBCs (Red Blood Cells) and harming your kidney by damaging it. Potentially life-threatening seen in 5-10% of patients infected with STEC.

Early-stage HUS symptoms

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Pain in the stomach

  • Vomiting

Advanced-stage of HUS Symptoms

  • Decrease in urination

  • Blood in urine

  • Fatigue, feeling tired

  • Skin looks pale

  • Easily bruised

  • Increase in the heart rate

  • Sleepiness, confusion, seizures

  • Lightheadedness

  • Kidney failure

Treatment and Home Care

If infected with E. Coli O157, you can take treatment at home. There is no specific treatment for the infection. Most get better with no specific medical treatment. Take plenty of fluids, as symptoms of diarrhea can cause dehydration. You can consult a dietician for a food chart during the infection. If you or your child gets bloody diarrhea, contact a physician immediately.

Prevention of E. Coli O157

  • Use soap or sanitizers to wash your hands in running water

  • Use warm water or dry soap to dry your hands completely

  • Must wash hands immediately after touching an infected person, their clothes, used materials, bedding, etc.

  • Wash hands after handling pets or cleaning their feces.

  • Wash hands after toilet or changing babies’ nappies

  • Wash hands before serving or preparing food

  • If infected, avoid food cooking until 48 hours after subsiding symptoms


We find E. Coli in the intestine, while most strains are harmless. A few may cause severe diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and pain in the stomach. One E. Coli strain can cause kidney failure if not treated adequately.

Eating contaminated food and touching feces or infected persons or their belongings can get you the infection. Most people recover from the illness without medical attention within 5-7 days. Washing hands often can mitigate the risk of getting the disease.

Updated on: 04-May-2023


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