STEC (also known as VTEC) infection can cause serious disease, including bloody diarrhoea, and sometimes haemolytic uraemic syndrome. Infection usually results from consuming contaminated food or water, or from contact with infected animals or people. Avoid eating undercooked burgers and unpasteurised milk products, and thoroughly wash salad vegetables before eating.
The symptoms of STEC infection include:
Symptoms can last 5 to 10 days. Symptoms can be severe in children, the elderly and people with reduced immunity.
If HUS results from the STEC infection, symptoms may include:
Other complications can develop following HUS including long-term kidney damage, high blood pressure and seizures.
STEC is carried by animals, such as cattle. People are infected when they come into contact with the faeces of an infected animal or person, either directly or indirectly.
STEC is spread through:
Anyone can be infected but young children and older people are at risk of severe disease. HUS is more common in children.
STEC infection is prevented by:
Diagnosis of STEC infection is made by testing a sample of stool (faeces) for the bacterium or toxin. Blood tests can identify antibodies to the infection. Diagnosis of HUS depends on blood test and examination of the patient.
Doctors, hospitals and laboratories must confidentially notify cases of STEC and HUS to the local Public Health Unit. Public Health Unit staff will work with the doctor, the patient or the patient's family to identify possible sources of infection. In outbreaks, the public health unit, in collaboration with the NSW Food Authority, will investigate to identify and control the likely source of infection.
For further information please call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055