Lessons From the E. Coli Outbreak

Posted from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/health-news-you-can-use/lessons-from-the-e-coli-outbreak/

The E. coli outbreak in Germany should be a worldwide wake-up call. More than 2,000 people have been severely sickened, and at least 33 people have died — with the potential for more to follow. Initially, the source was thought to be imported cucumbers, but the latest detective work has identified the culprit as sprouts from a farm in Germany.

E. coli is a ubiquitous bacteria. It lives inside our bodies, in our intestines, and within the intestines of basically all mammals. Previous serious outbreaks have occurred when:

  • Ground beef has been contaminated with the cow’s intestinal E. coli — that’s why hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees (it’s always safest to assume that beef is a source of E. coli).
  • Restaurant workers have not practiced good hand-washing, and have contaminated food.
  • Children visiting petting zoos haven’t washed their hands between petting animals and eating.
  • Swimming pools or lakes have been contaminated with E. coli.
  • Unpasteurized dairy products and apple juice and raw milk cheeses have caused outbreaks.

Keeping animal waste away from our growing fields is crucial to the safety of our produce. But it’s not always possible to prevent soil from being contaminated with animal waste. In places where there has been flooding, for example, runoff from an area where animals are kept can contaminate a field. It’s unclear what happened with the German sprout farm.

Most times, an E. coli infection from food just causes some inconvenient diarrhea for a day or two. But some strains of E. coli are more dangerous than others. The severely virulent strains in Germany caused severely painful abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, and kidney failure.

Some people are at higher risk for falling ill from E. coli — the very young and the very old, for example, as well as people who have weakened immune systems (due to cancer treatment, HIV infection, steroid use, or anti-rejection organ transplant medications).

If you might have an E. coli infection, your health care provider will probably send off a stool sample to be tested. This identification is important, both to confirm the specific diagnosis for the sake of your treatment, and to identify the specific E. coli strain responsible for your illness. Determining the genetic E. coli fingerprint is important from a public health standpoint, and will be used to try to track down the source if your illness turns out to be part of a larger outbreak.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for E. coli infection. Supportive treatment includes making sure the ill person remains well-hydrated, using intravenous fluids if necessary. Anti-diarrhea medicines are not recommended, since diarrhea serves the purpose of flushing E. coli from your system. While most people will recover within about a week, others will suffer the severe kidney complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

The cold, hard truth is that this kind of thing can happen anywhere. The food chain is imperfect, and no amount of monitoring can totally ensure food safety. So what can you do? In addition to following instructions for fully cooking beef products, here are some tips to try keeping your produce safe:

  • Always wash your hand after using the bathroom and before handling food.
  • Rinse all produce before eating — even bagged products that tout themselves as safe to eat have been found to contain E. coli.
  • Rinse before cutting — there’s no way to slice into a melon or an orange without transferring what’s on the rind or skin to the fruit you’ll be eating, so thoroughly rinse the outside first.
  • Don’t be afraid to soap up your produce before rinsing — it’ll improve the cleanliness, and the soap will rinse right off.
  • To improve the chance your produce is safe, peel your fruits and vegetables before eating, and consider cooking them.

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Posted from: http://www.naturalnews.com/054864_circadian_rhythms_cancer_risk_night_shift_workers.html

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