E. coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium E. coli. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.
E. coli O157:H7 is a toxin producing bacteria that causes intestinal disease in people which lasts about one week. Infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea. Frequently, no fever is present.
In the United States, hemolytic uremic syndrome is the principal cause of acute kidney failure in children, and most cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome are caused by E. coli O157:H7.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a life-threatening condition usually treated in an intensive care unit. Blood transfusions and kidney dialysis are often required. With intensive care, the death rate for hemolytic uremic syndrome is 3%-5%.
Most epidemiologic investigations of E. coli O157:H7 infections have involved restaurant associate outbreaks. However, in California in 1993, three cases of culture-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections were traced to consumption of hamburger purchased at a local grocery store and cooked at home.
Infection of E. coli O157:H7