Last Updated on January 5, 2024
What is E. coli?
E. coli is a name given to a large and diverse group of are bacteria found in the environment, foods , and intestines of people and animals. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia, and other illnesses. These types of E. coli are used as markers for water contamination. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is the bacteria most-commonly associated with foodborne outbreaks.
Preventing the Spread of E. coli
E. coli can spread by the following means :
- Consumption of contaminated food (which may have not been washed or cooked properly, or prepared by people who did not properly wash their hands)
- Consumption of foods considered to carry such a high risk of infection (such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, unpasteurized apple cider, and soft cheeses made from raw milk)
- Consumption of water that has not been disinfected
- Contact with cattle (at farms, petting zoos, and animal exhibits)
- Contact with the feces of infected people
- Swallowing lake water while swimming
Regular hand hygiene and surface disinfection are important preventative measures. Since these bacteria can be found in contaminated water, proper water purification is a vital component in preventing the spread of E. coli. Since household wells can be a source of infection, they should be tested regularly and properly maintained. Pools and other recreational water sources should be properly disinfected. This bacterium can also be spread through food — either due to poor hand hygiene of food handlers or because raw produce is irrigated or washed with contaminated water. Wash all fruits and vegetables well under running water and cook meat thoroughly .
Get Additional Protection with Germicidal UV Disinfection
In addition to the above preventative measures, Germicidal Ultraviolet (UV-C) surface disinfection (in the dosage listed below) can inactivate E. coli in many applications. Our products use STER-L-RAY® Germicidal UV-C Lamps producing ultraviolet wavelengths at 254 nanometers, the region of germicidal effectiveness most destructive to harmful microorganisms.
Germicidal Ultraviolet (UV-C) Water Purification can inactivate this bacterium in drinking water or water used for food preparation. View our application page on Well Water Contamination for more information on how UV purification can help protect your well water against E. coli and many other harmful microorganisms. Germicidal UV Disinfection can be used to protect pools and other recreational water sources from various pathogens . Restaurants, retailers, and meat processing facilities will benefit by adding UV-C surface disinfection to their regular sanitizing procedures. View our application-specific page on UV-C in Meat Processing. Another benefit of installing UV water purifiers is the ability to operate as usual during a boil water alert.
E. coli: Classification & UV-C Dose for Inactivation
Where can it be found?
What can it infect?
How does it spread?
People at High Risk for Contracting an Infection
While anyone can contract an infection, certain groups of people have higher chances of getting foodborne illness:
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people
- Those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS
E. coli Symptoms
Symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection vary for each person, but often include the following . Most people get better within 5 to 7 days:
- Severe stomach cramps, pain, or tenderness
- Diarrhea (ranging from mild and watery to severe and bloody)
- Possible low-grade fever
Sources on E. coli
The above information can be found on the following pages. Please read complete articles to learn more.
- CDC: E. coli (Escherichia coli)
- CDC: Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning
- CDC: Healthy Pets, Healthy People – E. coli Infection
- CDC: E. coli 0157:H7 and Drinking Water from Private Wells
- CDC: Stay Safe and Healthy in Your Backyard Pool
- Mayo Clinic: E. coli
* Nominal germicidal UV dosage necessary to inactivate better than 99% of microorganism.
- The Use of Ultraviolet Light for Microbial Control”, Ultrapure Water, April 1989.
- William V. Collentro, “Treatment of Water with Ultraviolet Light – Part I”, Ultrapure Water, July/August 1986.
- James E. Cruver, Ph.D., “Spotlight on Ultraviolet Disinfection”, Water Technology, June 1984.
- Dr. Robert W. Legan, “Alternative Disinfection Methods-A Comparison of UV and Ozone”, Industrial Water Engineering, Mar/Apr 1982.
- Bak Srikanth, “The Basic Benefits of Ultraviolet Technology”, Water Conditioning & Purification, December 1995.
Learn More & Shop Our Products to Inactivate E. coli
Made in the USA from U.S. and imported parts, the UV Water Purification and UV Surface Disinfection product lines from Atlantic Ultraviolet Corporation® are constructed of the highest quality materials and use germicidal UV-C lamps to disinfect water, air, and surfaces—inactivating microorganisms like E. coli.
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