• Last modified 3954 days ago (Oct. 22, 2008)


Reduce risk of E. coli infection

Staff writer

A 4-year-old boy died of complications from E. coli Oct. 12 at a hospital in Wichita.

The child was a resident of Matfield Green in Chase County. Health officials were still investigating the source of the infection, said Mike Heideman, a communications specialist of Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Confidentiality laws prohibit health officials from releasing the name of the victim.

There are hundreds of strains of E. coli, and most are harmless. But, according to KDHE there are several strains that can cause severe illness and even death. The most common dangerous strain is E. coli O157:H7.

About 70,000 people are infected in the U.S. every year. The very young and old are at the highest risk. Abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea that may be bloody are the most common symptoms of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site,

Most infections go away after five to 10 days, but up to 10 percent lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe kidney disease. This can cause kidney failure and possible death. Most people survive, but may have high blood pressure and kidney problems later in life.

People can take several steps to reduce the risk of infection. Thorough hand washing is important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or working with animals, Heideman said. People also should wash their hands before working with food.

Washing hands, countertops, cutting boards, and utensils after contact with raw meat further reduces the risk, he said. Food, especially ground beef, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

People should avoid some foods altogether, Heideman said. Unpasteurized milk, cheese made from unpasteurized milk, and unpasteurized juices are big risks.

People also should take care not to swallow water while swimming or playing in the water, according to the CDC.

Treatment for E. coli infection is supportive, said Marion County Health Department medical director Dr. Don Hodson. Hydration and possibly intravenous fluids are important for people suffering from diarrhea or vomiting.

Antibiotics are not helpful and may make things worse, Hodson said. Antidiarrhoeal drugs can also make the infection more dangerous.

When an infection leads to hemolytic uremic syndrome, dialysis may be necessary.

Last modified Oct. 22, 2008