Should I Be Worried About E. Coli?

Romaine lettuce, beloved for its crispy crunchiness, mild flavor and nutrients, has taken a bit of a hit thanks to a recent E. coli outbreak that has spread across 16 different states (Georgia is now one of them).

While at first you may have thought it worth the risk to enjoy eating this leafy green, by now you know that even restaurants and grocery stores are steering clear of romaine lettuce (all varieties), just to be safe. So, as the number of E. coli cases continues to grow you’re likely wondering if you’re at risk for E. Coli?

But before we tackle that question, we have a few truth bombs to drop on you.

First, what you think you know about E. Coli may be all wrong. For instance, did you know that E. Coli, the abbreviation for Escherichia coli, isn’t just one type of bacteria, it’s actually an entire group of diverse bacteria (with the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli being the culprit for many outbreaks)? Or that E. coli isn’t all bad and that it actually lives in the intestines of healthy people and plays an important role in the digestive process?

So, now that we have some of the misconceptions cleared up about E. Coli, let’s get a better understanding of what your overall risk may be.

The truth is, while this recent romaine lettuce recall is top-of-mind, there are E. Coli outbreaks every year (causing nearly 265,000 cases annually) that you may not have heard anything about (in the last 5 years there have been 12 different outbreaks).

But before you worry that the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is lurking in your favorite lettuce mix, fresh produce, or any food for that matter, here is some reassuring information to keep in mind: most cases of E. Coli clear up in 5 to 7 days with minimal treatment. With that being said, it’s still important to know the key symptoms to watch for, so you don’t worry every time you have a stomach ache.

The most common symptomsto watch for include:

·         Persistent diarrhea (oftentimes bloody)
·         Severe stomach cramps
·         Nausea and/or vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms, especially if you’ve eaten romaine lettuce 2 to 8 days before then, it is best to see your primary care provider—just to be safe. In rare cases, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication that causes kidney failure. And not to state the obvious, but for the time being, opt for a different type of lettuce (e.g., iceberg, spinach, arugula…etc.) in place of romaine.

In the event that you experience symptoms and need urgent care, ChoiceOne Urgent Care is prepared to offer complete care, 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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