Risks of E. coli (Escherichia coli) infection

Learn what the risks of E. coli infection are and who is most at risk of getting sick.

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What are the risks of getting an E. coli infection?

You are at risk of getting sick due to an E. coli infection if you:

  • eat:
    • raw or undercooked beef, especially ground beef
    • unpasteurized milk products, such as raw milk cheese
    • food contaminated with the feces from infected animals or people
    • contaminated food that has been improperly handled or undercooked
    • contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens or sprouts
  • drink:
    • untreated water
    • unpasteurized (raw) milk
    • unpasteurized juices like cider

Who is most at risk?

You are most at risk for an E. coli infection if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are a child younger than 5 years old
  • are an older adult, aged 60 and older
  • have a weakened immune system (cannot fight disease easily)

What are the risks of complications?

Some people may get seriously ill and need to be hospitalized. In rare cases, you may develop life-threatening symptoms, including:

  • stroke
  • kidney failure
  • seizures (severe and uncontrollable shaking of the body)

While most people recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage.

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