E. Coli

With all the news reports on the E. Coli outbreak in Germany, and now on E. Coli cases in Virginia, we’ve been hearing questions, including some on our Facebook page, from concerned parents wanting to know our thoughts and advice on this subject.

The most important things, we think, are to keep a good sense of perspective. To understand that the recent outbreak in Virginia is NOT the same as the strain in Germany. And to follow some good, common-sense health and safety precautions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has an excellent resource page on E. Coli. And we recommend all the common sense, good-practice safety precautions it advises. Chief among these are avoiding undercooked meats and vegetables, washing raw fruits and vegetables, washing hands with soap and warm water before eating, and avoiding drinking or swimming in any potentially contaminated water. (All these precautions are, of course, good advice at all times, and will protect you from other problems as well.)

You may also want to consult this CDC link about Making Food Safer to Eat and this ABC News feature on ways to protect yourself from all the “germs of summer.”

And finally, once more, remember to keep things in perspective:

There are roughly 73,000 cases of E. Coli infection in the United States every year, and, despite all the news reports we’re seeing, there is no reason to be any more concerned about contracting E. Coli this year, or right now, than in any other year or at any other time.

Remember that media coverage of these problems — think Bird Flu, or Swine Flu, or even something like Y2K — is always inflated, and way out of proportion to the actual risk involved. It’s natural to be concerned, and it’s understandable even to be unnerved when you hear so many breathless and dramatic reports. But remember that the dangers are not nearly as broad, nor as great, nor nearly as widespread, as those stories make them seem.

The advantages of doing things like swimming and eating fruits and vegetables are HUGE, compared to the very small relative risk of being exposed to something like E. Coli. Just as you wouldn’t stop driving because you’re afraid of being in a car accident — which is a far greater likelihood, by the way, than contracting an E. Coli infection — you shouldn’t avoid going swimming or eating fresh produce because of this fear.

That said, just as you should always wear your seatbelt and drive safely, you should follow those common sense precautions about cooking and eating and hygiene that we list and link to above. You can never eliminate all risk, but doing those simple things will help lessen the risks that do exist.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your childrens’ health, please call one of our offices and talk to one of our providers. (That’s why we’re here! And we’re always happy to help.)

We hope these thoughts have helped to alleviate some of fears and concerns about E. Coli, and we hope that you all, while always taking some good safety precautions, enjoy a healthy, happy, active summer.

Drs. Wolf, Hartung, and Maddalena, three of our Kids Plus Providers, all contributed content and insights to this Note.