How is an E. coli infection diagnosed?

STEC infections are diagnosed by sending a sample of your poop to a laboratory. Many labs can test for both STEC O157 and non-O157 STEC bacterial infections.

What steps are involved in getting a stool sample to my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider’s office. They may have you come in for an office visit and give you a sterile stool collection cup and specific directions to follow for how to collect a stool sample. They may also email specific instructions for collecting a sample at home.

Some general instructions for collecting a stool sample at home include:

  • First, wash your hands with soap and water.
  • If it’s possible to urinate (pee) before setting up for the stool collection, do so. You don’t want to get urine in your stool sample if you can help it.
  • To collect diarrhea, tape a plastic bag to the toilet seat. You only need to collect a small amount – a couple tablespoons.
  • Place the plastic bag into a clean (washed and dried) plastic container and seal with lid.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Write your name and date on the container, place within another bag, wash your hands again and deliver to your healthcare provider on the same day you collect your sample. If you can’t deliver your sample immediately, you can store it in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
  • Do not collect the sample from the toilet bowl. Do not mix in toilet paper, soap or water.

When will I get the results back from my stool sample?

Most laboratories report back the results within two to four days. Your healthcare provider will call you with the results as soon as they become available or you may be notified of your results electronically if you have an online medical record set up with your doctor or healthcare facility.

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