What is ETEC?

Escherichia coli is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Some forms of E.coli are harmless and some cause disease. ETEC is a group of E.coli that produce toxins that stimulate the intestine, which leads to the secretion of fluids and produces diarrhea. There are two different toxins produced by ETEC; heat-stable (ST) and heat-liable (LT), which cause similar illnesses. ETEC is a major bacterial cause of diarrhea in travelers and children in developing countries. It is a major source of foodborne illness in developed countries.

What are symptoms of ETEC?

ETEC normally develops 1-3 days after consuming an infected food or drink product. Symptoms normally last 3-4 days, but rarely longer than 3 weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme, watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • Bloating

How does someone become infected with ETEC?

ETEC occurs when human or animal feces infects a water or food source. It is passed to humans through consumption of infected food, drink, or ice.

How is ETEC diagnosed?

ETEC can be determined through a stool sample showing a culture of the bacteria. It may be diagnosed through a patient’s health history and symptoms.

What are the treatment options for ETEC?

Many patients will recover within 3-4 days without specific treatment. Patients should stayed hydrated with clear liquids or hydrating solution. An over-the-counter anti-diarrheal may be used to provide relief for cramping and diarrhea. Antibiotics are available to patients with severe symptoms, but they should be used with caution and avoided whenever possible.

How can I prevent ETEC?

For travelers in developing countries:

  • Use sealed, bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing hands, etc.
  • Only eat fresh fruits and veggies that you peel yourself
  • Eat food that is cooked properly and served hot
  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently

It is possible to get ETEC infections in developed countries through cross-contaminated foods or foods that were not cooked properly. To prevent ETEC:

  • Cook food properly and thoroughly
  • Avoid cross-contamination between vegetables, fruits, and grains and raw meat and dairy products

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