E. Coli Statistics
Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. Coli) bacteria can be found in the intestines of animals and humans. Most strains of E. Coli are harmless and are part of a healthy intestinal tract. However, some strains cause illnesses that can be severe, such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, and bloodstream infections.
- An estimated 265,000 E. coli infections occur each year in the U.S.
- Approximately 3,600 people are hospitalized with STEC each year, and 30 are killed.
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157:H7 causes 36% of infections, and non-O157 STEC causes the rest.
- From 1982 to 2002, a total of 350 outbreaks were reported from 49 states, accounting for 8,598 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection.
- Most of the outbreaks (89%) reported between 1982 to 2002 occurred from May to November.
- Most U.S. E. coli outbreaks have been associated with raw or undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized juice, and leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.).
- There are many possible sources of E. coli infection, so identifying the source is typically a guess. Unless your infection is part of the about 20% of cases that are part of a recognized outbreak, then a health department may identify the source.
- STEC, including E. coli O157:H7 and other Non-O157:H7 strains such as O111, O26, and others can cause mild to severe diarrhea
- Anyone can get sick from E. coli, but adults over 65, children younger than 5, people with weakened immune systems or pregnant, or those traveling to certain countries are at a higher risk.
- 5-10% of individuals that experience symptoms due to STEC will develop a life-threatening condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Persons who develop HUS may experience short-term kidney failure, while others can suffer from long-term kidney failure, seizures, stroke, and damage to the bowel.
- Children under 5 years old are most frequently diagnosed with illness caused by STEC and are at the greatest risk of developing HUS.
- Approximately 3% to 5% of persons who develop HUS will die despite treatment in intensive care.
- The types of E. coli that cause diarrheal illness are spread through contaminated food or water and contact with animals or people.
- The time between ingesting STEC bacteria and beginning symptoms can be anywhere from 2 to 10 days, but symptoms usually occur within 3 to 4 days.
- STEC infections are usually diagnosed through laboratory testing of stool samples (feces).
- Most persons with disease caused by STEC will recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment within 5 to 10 days.
Recent E. Coli Outbreak Investigations
How to Report an E. coli Infection
Healthcare professionals are required to report E. coli infections to their county or city health department. You also have the option of reporting food poisoning yourself. For information on locating and contacting your local health department, check your state health department website.
When you call, ask to speak to an environmental health specialist or sanitarian about a potential foodborne illness. Promptly reporting your illness will help public health officials identify possible E. coli outbreaks. The health department tracks reports of illnesses and will determine if others have similar symptoms and exposures. They may ask you what you ate in the week before you became ill and for any receipts or leftover food, you may have.
Reporting Timeline for Cases of E. coli O157 Infections
There are a series of events that take place between the time a person is infected with E. coli to when public health officials determine if there is an outbreak. Here is an estimated timeline.
- Time to illness: It takes approximately 1-3 days for a person to develop symptoms after exposure to E. coli O157 from contaminated food, water, or an infected animal.
- Time to visit with a healthcare provider: The time from the first symptom until a person seeks medical care and a stool sample is collected for testing is typically 1-5 days.
- Time to diagnosis: Once the stool sample is submitted, it may be 1-3 days until the laboratory receives and tests it for E. coli O157. The positive diagnosis may be reported to the local health department at this time.
- E. coli isolate shipping time: It can then take 0-7 days for the bacteria sample to ship from the laboratory to the state public health authorities. “DNA fingerprinting” will then be performed.
- Time to serotyping and “DNA fingerprinting”: The process for performing “DNA fingerprinting” on the E. coli O157 isolate and comparing it with the pattern of an outbreak strain can take the public health officials 2-4 days. Ideally, this can be done in one day, but many public health laboratories have limited staff and space.
First Signs and Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 Infection
People infected with E. coli O157:H7 can develop various symptoms, but they most often include stomach cramping, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Fever is not usually present. In some cases, those infected experience only mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. For others, illness can become severe or even fatal.
If you or someone you love has suffered from contracting E. coli, schedule a free consultation with a highly skilled legal team. We can help you explore your rights and file an E. Coli lawsuit.