No vaccine or medication can protect you from E. coli-based illness, though researchers are investigating potential vaccines. To reduce your chance of being exposed to E. coli, avoid risky foods and watch out for cross-contamination.
- Avoid pink hamburger. Hamburgers should be well-done. Meat, especially if grilled, is likely to brown before it's completely cooked, so use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is heated to at least 160 F (71 C) at its thickest point. If you don't have a thermometer, cook ground meat until no pink shows in the center.
- Drink pasteurized milk, juice and cider. Any boxed or bottled juice kept at room temperature is likely to be pasteurized, even if the label doesn't say so.
- Wash raw produce thoroughly. Although washing produce won't necessarily get rid of all E. coli — especially in leafy greens, which provide many spots for the bacteria to attach themselves to — careful rinsing can remove dirt and reduce the amount of bacteria that may be clinging to the produce.
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- Wash utensils. Use hot soapy water on knives, countertops and cutting boards before and after they come into contact with fresh produce or raw meat.
- Keep raw foods separate. This includes using separate cutting boards for raw meat and foods such as vegetables and fruits. Never put cooked hamburgers on the same plate you used for raw patties.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands after preparing or eating food, using the bathroom, or changing diapers. Make sure that children also wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom and after contact with animals.
- Escherichia coli O157:H7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/ecoli_o157h7. Accessed May 19, 2011.
- Guerrant RL. Escherichia enteric infections. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed May 19, 2011.
- Craig S, et al. Acute invasive bacterial enteritis. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed May 19, 2011.
- Calderwood SB. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis and treatment of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 19, 2011.
- Calderwood SB. Microbiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and prevention of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 19, 2011.
- Basic information about E. coli O157:H7 in drinking water. Environmental Protection Agency. http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/ecoli.cfm. Accessed May 19, 2011.