Tips to protect yourself from food-borne illness, from Harvard Men's Health Watch

Food-borne infections are getting a lot of attention these days, as they should. Each year, roughly 76 million Americans get sick from something they ate. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself, reports the April 2010 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch, in the second half of a two-part series.

More than 200 different microbes can cause food-borne illness. These are among the most frequent and dangerous perpetrators:

Escherichia coli. E. coli is one of the most common bacteria in the human colon. Four groups of "foreign" E. coli that are usually referred to by their initials—ETEC, EIEC, EPEC, and EHEC—can cause food-borne illness. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, and fever. Antibiotics can shorten the duration of traveler's diarrhea (caused by the ETEC group), but may make things worse for people infected with the notorious and dangerous O157:H7 strain (EHEC group).

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