Information for Patients
E. Coli Infections
E. coli is the name of a type of bacteria that lives in your intestines. Most types of E. coli are harmless. However, some types can make you sick and cause diarrhea. One type causes travelers' diarrhea. The worst type of E. coli causes bloody diarrhea, and can sometimes cause kidney failure and even death. These problems are most likely to occur in children and in adults with weak immune systems.
You can get E. coli infections by eating foods containing the bacteria. Symptoms of infection include
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Watery or very bloody diarrhea
To help avoid food poisoning and prevent infection, handle food safely. Cook meat well, wash fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them, and avoid unpasteurized milk and juices. You can also get the infection by swallowing water in a swimming pool contaminated with human waste.
Most cases of E. coli infection get better without treatment in 5 to 10 days.
Sepsis is a serious illness. It happens when your body has an overwhelming immune response to a bacterial infection. The chemicals released into the blood to fight the infection trigger widespread inflammation. This leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. They cause poor blood flow, which deprives your body's organs of nutrients and oxygen. In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, blood pressure drops and the heart weakens, leading to septic shock.
Anyone can get sepsis, but the risk is higher in
- People with weakened immune systems
- Infants and children
- Adults 65 and older
- People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease
- People suffering from a severe burn or physical trauma
Common symptoms of sepsis are fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation. Doctors diagnose sepsis using a blood test to see if the number of white blood cells is abnormal. They also do lab tests that check for signs of infection.
People with sepsis are usually treated in hospital intensive care units. Doctors try to treat the infection, sustain the vital organs, and prevent a drop in blood pressure. Many patients receive oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids. Other types of treatment, such as respirators or kidney dialysis, may be necessary. Sometimes, surgery is needed to clear up an infection.
NIH: National Institute of General Medical Sciences