How long does E. coli survive outside the body?

E. coli can survive outside the body from hours to months. It can live in soil for about 130 days. E. coli survives in river water for 27 days and in cattle slurry for 10 days. On stainless steel, E. coli was shown to survive for more than 60 days. It survives for at least 12 hours on wooden cutting boards.

Many factors affect how long E. coli can live outside the body including temperature, presence of water, availability of nutrients, pH and solar radiation.

How does E. coli cause a urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infections are sometimes caused when E. coli from your gastrointestinal tract get into your urinary tract. This can happen more easily in women because the anus (where poop exits your body) is located close to the urethra (the tube from which urine exits the body). E. coli bacteria can travel up the urethra to the bladder and even up to the ureters and kidneys. You may have been told – if you are a woman – to always “wipe from front to back.” This is so you don’t accidently spread E. coli bacteria from your anus to your urethra.

The most common urinary tract infections caused by E. coli are a bladder infection (cystitis), infection of the urethra (urethritis) and kidney infection.

Are there better food choices I can make as I start to feel better after an E. coli infection?

Drink clear liquids, such as broths, clear sodas and water. Stick with bland, low-fiber foods like toast, rice, plain crackers and applesauce. Stay away from high-fiber foods, fatty foods and dairy products.

When can I return to work or school if I’ve been infected with E. coli?

Check with your healthcare provider. If your infection was part of a local outbreak, your local state health department may have specific instructions about when it’s safe to be around groups of people.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The best and easiest way to avoid getting an E. coli infection is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water. Wash your hands before and after handling foods (including prepping, cooking and serving foods), after using the bathroom, after touching animals (especially farm or zoo animals), after changing diapers and after shaking hands or being touched by others (you never know what their hands have touched). Washing your hands can not only prevent contracting E. coli, but also many other infectious disease that are spread from person to person. Make frequent hand washing a new habit.

Keep in mind that most strains of E. coli are harmless. Even if you do come down with the STEC O157 strain, your symptoms will resolve on their own within five to seven days. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Do call your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea (and especially bloody diarrhea) for more than three days, have trouble keeping fluids down and have continuous bouts of vomiting and have a fever. These symptoms could mean you are developing serious complications that could lead to kidney failure.

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