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What is E. coli and how can you prevent it?

Find out the answer to questions like what is E. coli and is E. coli contagious? Discover how nasty E. coli symptoms occur and how they can be prevented.


what is food poisoning

E. coli is a very nasty form of food poisoning, but you can reduce the risks of infection and the debilitating E. coli symptoms striking in your home with a thorough plan. Let’s take a look at what it is, the main E. coli causes and symptoms, and how you can go about preventing it.

Always make sure your meat is cooked properly. The absence of any pink colour doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume, so use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked to at least 71 °C at its thickest point.

What is E. coli?

E. coli is a bacterial infection that can lead to severe food poisoning symptoms in humans. The most common E. coli infection is caused by a strain known as E. coli O157, often found in the gut and feces of sheep and cattle.

What are the main E. coli symptoms?

E. coli symptoms tend to show up 1-10 days after infection, and usually continue to varying degrees of severity for up to 14 days. The main E. coli symptoms are:

  • Watery diarrhea that can become bloody

  • Stomach cramps

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fever

  • Decreased appetite

  • Fatigue

The above E. coli symptoms are the most common ones. More serious symptoms include:

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  • Decreased urination

  • Blood in urine

  • Dehydration

  • Bruising

If these symptoms occur, immediate medical intervention should be sought.

What are the main E. coli causes?

We’ve answered the question what is E. coli and looked at E. coli symptoms, but how is it caused? The main E. coli causes include:

  • Consuming foods that are out of date, have been stored at an incorrect temperature or left out of the fridge for too long

  • Drinking or swimming in contaminated water

  • Eating raw seafood

  • Eating raw produce that hasn’t been washed properly

  • Coming into contact with infected animals

  • Person to person: it’s often asked is E. coli contagious and the answer is yes, it certainly can be. When a person who has the coli infection doesn’t wash their hands properly, they can pass it on by touching someone or preparing their food

How can you prevent E. coli?

Whilst there are no vaccines or medicines that can stop the E. coli infection, there are a number of E. coli prevention tips you can follow in your home. You can reduce your risks of contracting E. coli by doing the following:

  1. Avoid cross contamination

  2. Household cleaning

  3. Hand washing

This is a huge part of E. coli prevention and the following steps will reduce the risk significantly:

  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked

  • Clean utensils and chopping boards in between preparing different foods, or use completely separate equipment

The two key areas to focus on when developing an E. coli prevention strategy are your kitchen and bathroom:

  • Clean basins, toilets, taps, surfaces and handles with anti-bacterial sprays like Cif and bleach like Domex to help prevent bacteria spreading. Test the product on a small area first and always take safety precautions, following the instructions on the label. Whenever you use chemicals like these, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, don’t mix them with other chemicals and store them out of reach of pets and children

  • Dispose of cleaning materials to stop bacteria development, and use disinfectant to wipe down gloves after use

We’ve addressed the question is E. coli contagious and established that it can be spread through touch, which makes efficient hand washing vital. It should always be done:

  • After going to the toilet

  • When handling nappies

  • After contact with an infected person

  • After contact with animals

  • Immediately after cleaning kitchens and bathrooms

  • Before, during and after food preparation and serving

Once you have the right information you can reduce the risk of E. coli infection. Follow this plan and you’ll be better protected.

washing hands

* Always keep raw foods separate from cooked and use different chopping boards and utensils for meats and fresh produce

  • Maintain high level hygiene around your house by cleaning it regularly and using effective cleaning products like Cif and Domex

  • Wash your hands as often as possible to prevent the spread of E. coli infection

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Originally published