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Escherichia coli Infection and Farm Animals

scanning electron micrograph of E.coli

What is Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli)?

Escherichia coli O157 is a species of bacteria. The most common type of E. coli infection that causes illness in people is called E. coli O157. Symptoms of E. coli O157 include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Illness may be mild or severe. Young children are more likely to have severe symptoms, including kidney failure, and die.

How is E. coli transmitted from animals to people?

While most people get E. coli O157 from contaminated food (such as undercooked ground beef), it also can be passed in the manure (feces) of young calves and other cattle. Animals do not have to be ill to transmit E. coli O157 to humans.

Transmission electron micrograph of
E. coli

How I do reduce my risk of getting E. coli from animals?

dairy cattle
  • After contact with cattle or their manure (feces),
    wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap.
  • Children under the age of 5 years old should be extra cautious around cattle (including those in petting zoos).
  • If you develop symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and/or nausea, contact your physician. Be sure to inform him or her of recent contact with farm animals.

How do I find more information about E. coli?

Please read CDC's E. coli fact sheet for answers to frequently asked questions, technical information, and references. In addition, refer to the articles below for information about E. coli infection at petting zoos and farms and in swimming pools.



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