Kent County Health Department
E. coli O157:H7 Fact Sheet
General Public Fact Sheet What is E. coli O157:H7?
E. coli are bacteria (germs) that normally
live in the intestines of people and animals.
Most strains of this germ are harmless, but
the strain called E. coli O157:H7 can make
How is E. coli O157:H7 spread?
E. coli must be swallowed to cause
infection. This can happen by:
• Eating food or drinking water
containing human or animal waste
• Eating ground beef that has not been
fully cooked (still has pink in it)
• Eating or drinking unpasteurized
• Placing contaminated hands or
objects in the mouth
• Eating fruits or vegetables fertilized
with raw cow manure
• Handling soiled diapers
• Coming in contact with other
What are the symptoms of E.
The most common symptoms of E. coli are:
• Severe stomach cramps
Sometimes the diarrhea turns bloody after
two or three days. Some people may vomit
or run a fever, but these are less common.
Usually there is little or no fever present.
These symptoms usually go away by
themselves after five to 10 days. In a small
number of cases, this strain of E. coli can
cause a rare but serious problem called
hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
HUS is a disease which destroys the red
blood cells and causes the kidneys to fail. It
starts about a week after the diarrhea
begins. Children under five years of age
and the elderly are most at risk for
developing HUS. Most people who get
HUS will regain their health with no
remaining blood or kidney problems.
How soon do infected people
Symptoms usually begin within three or
four days after swallowing the bacteria. It
may take up to eight days for symptoms to
Can E. coli O157:H7 be spread
from person to person?
Yes, E. coli can be spread from person to
person. A person who is sick with E. coli
should not handle food or care for patients,
children or the elderly.