With recent outbreaks, it’s important to know the basics of E. Coli and how it can affect you and your family.
What is E. Coli?
Escherichia coli which is commonly referred to as E. coli is a bacterium that is typically found in various foods, soil and animal intestines. E. coli is very diverse. While most of the strains of E. coli are harmless others are harmful and can cause very serious health implications.
Common Sources of E. Coli
- Raw fruits and veggies. Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach are especially at risk of contamination, and that’s why it’s so important to wash them leaf by leaf carefully before consuming them!
- Ground meat. Ground meat at risk of contamination because E.coli bacteria can spread directly from the animal’s intestines to the meat.
- Contaminated water. Animals or humans can pollute water including rivers, lakes and even water used for irrigation. Public water systems use chlorine, and other substances to eliminate E. coli, however, they are not fool proof. Some E. coli outbreaks have been the result of tap water that has been contaminated. You can also become infected by swallowing just a bit of contaminated pool or lake water.
How E. Coli Effects You
Food poisoning that can cause diarrhea is a common side effect. Other problems in the digestive system and harmful strains of E. coli can cause the following health problems;
- Infection of the urinary tract
- Respiratory illness
In the intestinal tract, E. coli can aid in digestion and supports the absorption of vital vitamins from food in the body. In addition, E. coli has been shown to be beneficial in that it prevents the growth and proliferation of other harmful species of bacteria that would otherwise cause health problems.
How to Protect Yourself
There are many ways to protect yourself during an E. Coli outbreak. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones from E. coli bacteria:
- Avoid foods that have been publicly identified in outbreaks (such as the recent cases of contaminated romaine lettuce).
- Cook your meat well, especially ground meat. Don’t eat it pink or undercooked. For example, cook your hamburgers until they’ve reached 160 degrees.
- Thorough washing of all fresh fruits and vegetables (pay close attention to leafy ones) in water to remove potentially harmful bacteria.
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for information on current outbreaks.
- If you think you have contracted food poisoning see your doctor, especially if you are pregnant, an older adult, or have a weakened immune system.
- Install a filtration system in your home or business. Filtration systems safely control bacteria and viruses along with reducing common water treatment chemicals like chlorine. Aqua Ultraviolet systems can easily be retrofitted to the incoming water line of your home or business.