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Signs and Symptoms

  • People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after swallowing the germ.
    • Most people infected with E. coli develop diarrhea that can be bloody, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.
    • Most people recover within 1 week.
    • Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
  • Some people with a STEC infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
    • HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems.
    • HUS develops about 7 days after symptoms first appear, when diarrhea is improving.
    • Clues that someone is developing HUS include
      • decreased frequency of urination,
      • feeling very tired, and
      • losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
    • People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems.
    • Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.
  • E. coli infection is usually diagnosed by testing a stool sample.