Reduce the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses

April 15, 2022

Reduce the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses

MOBILE, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is investigating four cases of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 and two cases of Rotavirus in younger children in northeastern Alabama. ADPH regularly investigates clusters and outbreaks of communicable diseases as required by Notifiable Disease Rules in Alabama.

In 2021, ADPH investigated 113 cases of E. coli, Shiga toxin-producing illness (includes O157:H7). People of any age can become infected with this germ, but very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and kidney problems than others.

In Mobile County, Shiga toxin-producing illness has been reported twice in 2022. It was reported eight times in 2021, once in 2020, seven times in 2019, and 14 times in 2018. It is not required for public health officials to be notified of Rotavirus cases.

The Mobile County Health Department’s Bureau of Disease Control & Surveillance, along with its Bureau of Environmental Health, help to monitor these gastrointestinal illnesses. To report potential cases, please contact Inspection Services by calling 251-690-8116 or by email to

“Enteric diseases, like infection with Escherichia coli and Rotavirus, occur when fecal particles are passed from an infected person or animal to the mouth of another person,” said Dr. Rendi Murphree, an Epidemiologist who oversees Disease Control & Surveillance. “It is extremely important that children, parents, and caregivers wash hands frequently, especially when changing diapers and preparing food.

“Disease from Rotavirus can be prevented through proper vaccination. Parents are urged to speak with pediatricians about keeping children and adolescents up to date with immunizations recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.”

The symptoms of E. coli O157 and similar E. coli infections can vary. However, symptoms frequently include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Fever up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit may occur but is not the most common symptom. While most people improve in five to seven days of illness, it is important that persons who have symptoms talk to their healthcare provider, especially if they have bloody diarrhea or are very young or elderly.

To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

* Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. Also, wash your hands after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even in your own back yard).

* Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).

* Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.

* Prevent cross-contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after touching raw meat.