Hemorrhagic colitis is a form of gastroenteritis where certain strains of Escherichia coli infect the large intestine and triggers the release of a toxin that causes blood-streaked diarrhea and other serious complications.
The condition can occur among individuals of all ages but quite common among children and elderly. There are various strains of Escherichia coli that causes hemorrhagic colitis. The bacteria can damage the large intestinal lining. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, other organs are affected such as the kidneys.
What are the indications?
Intense abdominal cramps start abruptly together with watery diarrhea that can become streaked with blood within 24 hours. The diarrhea typically lasts for 1-8 days. Fever is usually absent or minor but can reach up to 102 degrees F.
A small percentage of cases trigger a severe complication known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome. The symptoms include anemia due to the destruction of the red blood cells, abrupt kidney failure and low platelet count.
How is it diagnosed
The doctor might suspect hemorrhagic colitis if an individual experience blood-streaked diarrhea. A stool sample is taken and analyzed for the strains of E. coli or other toxins that the release. Other tests such as sigmoidoscopy might be required if the doctor suspects other conditions responsible for the blood-streaked diarrhea.
A vital part in the treatment is increased intake of fluids. Oftentimes, excess fluid is lost which necessitates providing of fluids intravenously. It is important to note that antibiotics are not used since they only increase the risk for the development of hemolytic-uremic syndrome.
Individuals who end up with complications are likely to require intensive care in a healthcare facility and even kidney dialysis and other specific treatment.
The improvement in the meat-processing industry has helped in reducing the incidence of meat contamination with E. coli. Despite these measures, ground beef can still end up contaminated. It is vital to cook ground beef up to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F or until the juices run clear.
Other preventive measures include the following:
- Only pasteurized milk and milk products must be consumed
- Proper disposal of stool of infected individuals
- Practice good hygiene such as washing hands using soap