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Santé Montréal

Hamburger disease

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Description

The intestines of humans and animals naturally contain many friendly bacteria that are part of our normal intestinal flora. This is true for a bacterium called Escherichia coli. However, a harmful variety of E. coli, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is capable of producing one or several powerful toxins and causing illness. This bacteria is naturally present in the intestines of cattle and other animals.

  • STEC infection is a form of food poisoning that occurs when a person eats food that is contaminated by this bacteria.

Mode of transmission

  • STEC infection is mainly transmitted by eating contaminated food. Several types of food can be contaminated: poorly cooked ground beef (hence the term Hamburger disease), unpasteurized milk products, various fresh produce like fruits and raw vegetables (e.g., sprouts, lettuce, spinach), unpasteurized apple juice or cider, and untreated water.
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Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Severe bloody diarrhoea (hemorrhagic colitis)
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When to Consult

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Complications

  • STEC infection is a serious disease that can lead to complications, sequelae and even death.
  • In some 5% to 15% of cases, STEC infection can cause a serious kidney problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can occur in healthy people of all ages, but especially affects children under the age of five and older adults. About 30% to 35% of people who develop HUS will have long-term kidney damage and require regular medical follow-up
  • STEC infection is a serious disease that can lead to complications, sequelae and even death.
  • In some 5% to 15% of cases, STEC infection can cause a serious kidney problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can occur in healthy people of all ages, but especially affects children under the age of five and older adults. About 30% to 35% of people who develop HUS will have long-term kidney damage and require regular medical follow-up
  • Pasteurization and cooking destroy STEC and many other harmful bacteria.
  • Simple preventive measures can reduce the risk of E. coli infection at home, the main ones being thorough hand washing and proper hygiene when handling food.
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Protection and prevention

  • Keep food cold, between 0 oC and 4 oC.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Never leave cooked foods out at room temperature more than two hours.
  • Wash hands and cooking utensils often.
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Risk factors

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Help and Resources

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Treatment

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People at Risk

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Dernière mise à jour le : 2018.06.26