Important information about E. coli

 In NHS Guidelines, Pharmacy Information, Simplifying Product Supply

There are many types of E. coli bacteria in the intestines of animals and humans. Some can be harmless, but others can cause quite severe illnesses.

One of the main E. coli strands responsible for causing intestinal infections is Escherichia coli O157, with the NHS describing it as abacterial infection that can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure’.

E. coli O157 is commonly found in the gut and faeces of animals such as cattle and if humans contract it then it can cause intestinal infections.

How can you catch E. coli O157?

The Health Protection Agency suggest the following ways in which you can catch this strain of E. coli:

  • Eating infected food, mainly meat, unpasteurised milk and cheese.
  • Contact with infected animals, such as at farms or animal sanctuaries.
  • Contact with other people who have the illness, through inadequate hand washing after using the toilet, and/or before food-handling, particularly in households, nurseries and infant schools.
  • Eating unwashed vegetables which may have been infected by manure from infected cattle.
  • Drinking or swimming in infected water, such as river water, stream water or water from drinking wells.”

How can you tell if you might have an E. coli infection?

There a few tell-tale signs that you might have an E.coli O157 infection, and they can vary in severity and some are more common than others. It’s also worth noting you can have more than one of the following symptoms:

Common symptoms

  • Diarrhoea (around half of the people affected will have bloody diarrhoea)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever

Uncommon symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, you should always consult with a medical professional.

How best can you prevent yourself from getting E. coli?

It is important to note that E. coli outbreaks are more common in places with a high density of people. Hospitals can have all manner of bacteria in them, because of all the sick patients and the population density can be very high. Put these two factors together and there is a higher risk of bacteria spreading. Therefore hospitals have to be very careful in their infection control protocols.

To stop the spread of E. coli strict hygiene measures are crucial. The NHS provide the following tips on how to deal with an infected patient –

  • Hands must be washed thoroughly with soap and running water and must be dried completely.
  • Anyone who has contact with an infected patient must also wash their hands thoroughly.
  • After going to the toilet, changing a babies nappies and before preparing or serving food hands must always be washed.
  • Do not share towels or nappy changing mats.
  • Wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes in a washing machine at the highest temperature possible (e.g. 60°C).
  • Wipe down the outside of the washing machine with hot water and detergent after any heavily soiled load.
  • Clean toilet seats, toilet flush handles, basin taps, surfaces and toilet door handles at least daily.
  • Disinfection sprays and wipes or alcohol-based wipes can be used on toilet seats and other surfaces.
  • Dispose of cloths by placing them in a plastic bag, sealing the neck and placing in household waste.
  • Deal with any spillage of faeces immediately.

We offer an extensive selection of medical supplies to help you maintain high levels of hygiene and control infections, including hand sanitizerswipes and medical sprays. A much wider range of products for infection control, including gloves, aprons and antiseptics are also available from our online ordering website.



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