Coliform bacteria is a type of organism that inhabits the intestinal tract of animals and people. The bacteria is passed through fecal matter and can contaminate water supplies, if not treated properly. In addition, unsanitary conditions in kitchens can also lead to the contamination of food with coliform bacteria, which is usually referred to as E. coli poisoning. Illness cause by exposure to coliform bacteria may result in a wide variety of symptoms.
The most common symptoms of exposure to coliform bacteria involve the digestive system. Usually seven days after eating or drinking something contaminated with coliform bacteria, patients begin to experience stomach cramping and gas accompanied by a loss of appetite. Their stomach may also feel tender to the touch, and become irritated when digesting food or drinks that contain lactose. The cramps usually give way to very watery stools. As the diarrhea continues, it begins to become bloody, eventually appearing as if the stool is completely blood and no other type of waste. Diarrhea usually lasts for two to seven days and often occurs more than 10 times per day. In some cases, people also experience nausea and vomiting, but this is relatively rare.
Illness brought on by coliform bacteria can also cause fever of over 100 degrees F. Patients describe a general feeling of malaise and tiredness. If diarrhea brought on by coliform continues, it can lead to dehydration, which may result in excessive thirst, dry or flushed skin, dark-colored urine, chills and light-headedness. If the illness is allowed to progress without the patient's taking steps to ensure proper hydration, more severe symptoms may develop, such as increased heart rate and respiration, muscle cramps and aches, headaches, tingling in the extremities, shriveled skin, loss of vision, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura
At times, exposure to coliform bacteria shows none of the traditional symptoms, instead inhibiting the production of blood platelets. In this case, different signs of the infection may present themselves, including pale skin, weakness, a decreased production of urine, irritability, seizures or paralysis on one side of the body. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to permanent mental impairment, blindness and loss of mobility.
In children, stomach cramps may occur but then disappear. Five to 10 days after these initial symptoms, children may then present new symptoms as a result of acute kidney failure brought on by the coliform bacteria. Signs of acute kidney failure in children include lethargy, swelling of the limbs, confusion, a metallic taste in the mouth, difficulty concentrating, extreme fatigue and vomiting.
To prevent the complications brought on by coliform bacterial infections, patients should see a doctor as soon as any of a number of warning signs are present. These include an inability to keep fluids down, diarrhea that is prolonged for more than four days or the presence of blood in the stool. To prevent coliform contamination, people should be sure to wash their hands after defecating and to cook meat thoroughly. In addition, it is important to drink only water that has been treated for bacteria, including purified tap water and bottled water.