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An E. coli infection can cause diarrhoea, blood in poo, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever.
The bacterial infection is mainly caused by the E. coli O157 strain, found in the gut and poo of many animals, particularly cattle and sheep.
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An E. coli O157 infection can be caught by:
People with an E. coli O157 infection may have one or more of these symptoms:
People usually notice symptoms 3-4 days after they've been infected, but symptoms can start any time between 1 and 14 days afterwards.
These symptoms can last up to two weeks.
A small number of people with E. coli go on to develop a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).
This can sometimes lead to kidney failure. The risk of HUS is highest in children aged under five years.
Some people are infected with E. coli O157 but don't get any symptoms.
Find out more about treating diarrhoea and vomiting (gastroenteritis).
There's no specific treatment for an E. coli O157 infection.
People who are infected can usually be cared for at home, and most will get better without medical treatment.
It's important to drink plenty of fluids, as diarrhoea can lead to dehydration.
You should contact your doctor as soon as possible if you or your child has bloody diarrhoea.
Antibiotics aren't recommended, and may increase the risk of complications.
Anti-diarrhoea drugs such as loperamide (Imodium) are also not recommended as they may prolong your exposure to the toxin.
Very few E. coli bacteria are needed to cause illness, which makes E. coli very infectious.
Everyone should wash their hands regularly and thoroughly to prevent spreading E. coli at home.
It's important to wash your hands:
Find out how to wash your hands properly.
Anyone who has been infected should avoid cooking or preparing food until 48 hours after their symptoms have cleared up.
Don't share towels or nappy changing mats.
Disinfectant sprays and wipes or alcohol-based wipes may be used on toilet seats and other surfaces, but only after any visible dirt has been removed.
Thick household bleach is highly effective.
Ideally, use heavy-duty domestic rubber gloves and disposable cloths for cleaning.
You should stay away from work or school until you've been completely free from symptoms for 48 hours.
Most people are no longer infectious after about a week.
Some people, particularly children, may carry the E. coli bacteria for several months after getting better.
You should take special care before returning to work or school if:
This advice applies to people who've been infected and those who live in the same household.
Children aged under five recovering from an E. coli infection should avoid public swimming pools until test results give them the all clear.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.