Sunday, April 24, 2005

DOH warns of E. Coli infection from swimming pools, beaches

The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday warned the public of possible infection of the Escherichia Coli or E. Coli bacteria from swimming pools and beaches this summer.

The bacteria recently killed the eldest daughter of Mandaluyong Rep. Benjamin Abalos Jr.

Troy Gepte, a DOH medical specialist, said one can get the bacteria from eating dirty food or accidentally drinking water from contaminated swimming pools or beaches.

E. coli are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of humans and animals. Although most strains are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause diarrhea. One particular E. coli strain called O157:H7 can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage.

Anyone can become infected with E. coli O157:H7, but the very young and the elderly are more likely to develop serious complications.

E. coli O157:H7 can be acquired by eating contaminated food. Eating meat that is rare or inadequately cooked is the most common way of getting the infection. Fresh vegetables, unpasteurized fruit juices and raw milk have also caused outbreaks. With careless food handling any food product eaten raw can be contaminated by raw meat juices.

Person-to-person transmission, especially in child care settings, can occur if infected people do not wash their hands after using the toilet or diapering children. Drinking contaminated water and swimming in contaminated water may also cause infection.

Some infected people have mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. Most identified cases develop severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Blood is often seen in the stool. Usually little or no fever is present. Symptoms generally appear three to four days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to appear. Persons experiencing these symptoms should contact their doctor.

E. Coli can be fatal if the person's resistance is weak, Gepte said.

Abalos’ daughter, Ciara Marie, died of E. Coli infection late Friday at the intensive care unit of Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Abalos said his daughter was rushed to the hospital Thursday after she fell ill.

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