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E. coli O157:H7

E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of Escherichia coli that is most commonly found in cattle, but also found in the intestines of humans and mammals like deer. This pathogenic E. coli strain can produce potent toxins called Shiga toxin 1 and 2. Affected people may develop gastro-intestinal symptoms that include severe watery diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramps or vomiting. The incubation period ranges from 1-10 days (median 3-4 days). About 8% of the patients may develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), which is characterised by acute kidney failure. Children under five years old have a higher risk of developing complications such as HUS. Some 1-5% of cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection may die.

Food and water can be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 due to contact with cattle faeces. Contamination of agricultural products can occur in the field and meat products in the abattoir. Undercooked and raw foods, such as minced beef, hamburgers, unpasteurized dairy products, vegetables and alfalfa sprouts etc. are of particular concern. Consumption of undercooked or raw food may pose a higher risk of illness as only a small number of the bacteria are needed to cause illness. On the other hand, cooking is effective in killing the bacteria and preventing illness. Furthermore, good personal hygiene and proper food handling techniques will minimise the chance of transmitting this bacteria via the faecal-oral route.

Enviro Labs is a professional microbial laboratory which could help traders / customers to find whether their food is contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. Call us at 2676 2983 or e-mail for further questions about the services.


E. coli O157:H7 Infection, Centre of Food Safety, FEHD, HKSAR

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