At Least Two People in Broome County Infected by E. Coli: How to Protect Yourself
According to Broome County health officials, at least two people who swam at Nathaniel Cole Park in Colesville have been treated for E. coli infections.
The people infected went swimming on June 23, 2013 with an estimated 800 other people and thousands in the following weeks with no other confirmed cases. Officials are continuing to test the water and monitor conditions, but say that the tested water has come back negative for E. coli, so there’s a chance those infected might have come in contact with the E. coli through meat or animals.
How does E. coli spread in public places?
Infections start when you swallow STEC. In other words, when you get teeny tiny usually invisible amounts of human or animal feces in your mouth. Unfortunately, this happens more often than we would like to think about. People have also gotten infected by swallowing lake water while swimming, touching animals in petting zoos and other animal exhibits, and by eating food prepared by people who did not wash their hands well after using the bathroom. When you think about it, almost all of us have some risk of infection.
What are the symptoms and how long do they last?
Most of the time, you won’t know you’re sick for 3-4 days after being exposed to E. coli but sometimes it can take 1 to 10 days before you know you’re sick. The symptoms usually start slowly with mild belly pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days. Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
If you’re concerned about contracting E. coli, the CDC has these tips to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. Wash your hands after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard).
- Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70˚C. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
- Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
- Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
- Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.