Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) are bacteria
that cause disease in humans and domestic animals
by producing a heat labile or heat stable toxin or
The disease is also known as "Traveler’s
Diarrhea." Although ETEC is a frequent cause of
diarrhea in developing countries, it is an uncommon
cause of outbreaks in the United States.
How does a person become infected with
ETEC are found in the stool of an infected person or
animal. If the bacteria get into food or water
consumed by a susceptible person, symptoms consistent with the disease may develop.
What are the symptoms of ETEC?
The main characteristic of the disease is a watery
diarrhea. It begins about 14 to 50 hours after the
bacteria have been ingested.
The diarrhea may be mild and last only a few days or it may be more
severe and prolonged, lasting up to three weeks.
Generally the diarrhea does not contain blood or
Other symptoms include:
How can ETEC be diagnosed?
There are many causes of diarrhea. Stool cultures
and other tests should be obtained to eliminate the
more common causes of diarrhea such as:
Specific laboratory tests for ETEC are not
widely available at commercial laboratories. Specialized laboratories including those at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are able
to identify this organism.
How can ETEC be treated?
Most people recover from this infection without
antibiotics or specific treatment. Electrolyte fluid
replacement is most commonly used to prevent or treat dehydration. Most cases do not require any
With severe illness in adults,
treatment with antibiotics and other medications
may be necessary. A doctor should be consulted
for treatment of illness in children or adults with
Where can I get more information?
Contact your doctor or the Southern Nevada Health District, Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300.