Signs and symptoms of an E. coli infection include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain and, in some people, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually begin three to four days after infection, according to Mayo Clinic.
E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of all healthy people. However, some strains, like E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe symptoms. E. coli is spread when an individual eats or drinks contaminated water or food — often ground beef, unpasteurized milk or fresh produce. The bacteria are also easily spread from infected people. Just a small amount of E. coli can cause infection and make people sick. The infection can lead to life-threatening conditions in young children and older adults, including hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure, states Mayo Clinic.
A doctor needs a sample of stool for laboratory tests to identify an E. coli infection. Currently, there are no cures for the infection. Recommended treatment for E. coli is rest and drinking fluids. Doctors do not recommend taking anti-diarrheal medicine as these drugs slow down the digestive system and the process of removing toxins from the body. Additionally, doctors do not prescribe antibiotics due to the risk of serious complications, according to Mayo Clinic.