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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E.coli outbreaks and Alternative Treatment

The e.coli outbreak that has caused 22 deaths, over 600 hospitalizations, and over 2300 illnesses in Germany has now "surfaced" in Canada and reached the media today as headline news. Apparently an Ontario resident turned up with the particular strain. He had been to Germany and most likely was in contact with the contaminated food source- the source of the German outbreak has not yet been identified.

E.coli is a naturally occurring bacteria that has likely always been with us. It is found naturally in the digestive tracts of both humans and animals. It doesn't usually cause any problems. If it does, it's conventionally treated with antibiotics. It was a chapter in my "Bioterrorism and Biological Emergencies" book because, in 1982, a new strain of the bacteria appeared on the scene that was resistant to antibiotics. It was called e.coli 0157:H7. In the first detected outbreak, the bacteria was found in undercooked meat. In 1991 it was found in unpasteurized apple cider (trees had been fertilized with contaminated livestock manure) and 27 people got sick. In 1991, 500 people in Washington got sick from contaminated hamburger in a fast food chain and 4 children died. Then in 2000, we saw the biggest outbreak when it contaminated the Walkerton Ontario town water supply. In that outbreak there were 7 deaths, 2300 illnesses and 150 hospitalizations from a community of only 5000. There have been other outbreaks since then, but Walkerton was a "wake-up call" for a lot of increased legislation around water and food testing.

The symptoms of e.coli are the result of inflammation in the digestive system which result in sudden onset of stomach cramping, diarrhea, and sometimes mild fever. Most people recover within a week, but in extreme cases, the bacteria is carried from the digestive system to the blood stream and begin to affect the kidneys causing a breakdown of red blood cells. This leads to the condition (hemolytic uremic syndrome) that has been diagnosed in most, if not all, of the fatalities.

That's probably way more biology than you really need to know! The question is, how is it treated? This is one that really doesn't get a lot of conventional medicine treatment other than rehydration and support. In the extreme conditions, kidney dialysis and blood transfusions may be part of the plan.

It is not a good idea to use anti-diarrhea medications either over the counter or prescribed. This just keeps the bacteria inside the body- the diarrhea is a natural effort by your body to rid you of the offending agent. It's best to let it "run" it's course. You do however have to make sure you (especially children or compromised individuals) are staying hydrated. That means you have to drink a lot of water, clear juices etc. to replace the fluid that is being lost. Antibiotics don't work in these resistant strains and vaccinations are not appropriate because the agent isn't a virus.

The good news is that e.coli is not contagious. In order to get sick, you have to introduce the bacteria to your body. Usually that means you have to eat or drink the contaminated food source. The only other way to introduce it is to have the bacteria on your hands prior to touching your mouth or eyes (mucous membranes). This has been known to happen in the course of touching someone else's diarrhea while changing diapers, cleaning up after, and other such disgusting but necessary activities!! The key is to wash your hands thoroughly!!!

There are some alternative treatments for e.coli. And it doesn't matter if the strain is antibiotic resistant or not!

Colloidial silver may be helpful as it is an anti-bacterial agent. It could be used to clean surfaces in the area of the infected person to prevent further contamination. It can also be taken internally in either prevention or treatment approaches.

Perelandra ETS, Immune, and Digestive might be helpful to treat or prevent the symptoms from occurring.

From the homeopathic world, Arsenicum would be helpful with the cramping symptoms. China would be helpful to combat dehydration. Nux Vomica might help with the stomach symptoms. Rhus Tox. might be your globule of choice if that usually works for you when you have stomach symptoms. Belledona could help if there is a fever component. The thing with homeopathics is that you don't need to find a remedy to treat "e.coli" you find a remedy that matches with the symptoms you have. So whatever you normally use for stomach issues should provide relief. You don't need to have a diagnosis before you treat in the world of homeopathy.

It's often the simplest things that make a difference. You really need to always wash your hands before you eat!!! You need to wash them very well if you are treating someone that is sick. You need to keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes. You also should make sure food is cooked properly. Most of the outbreaks can be linked to improperly cooked food sources. The bacteria is destroyed by heat so if the food is properly cooked and the preparation surfaces aren't a factor, there isn't a problem. Sometimes that means food that "sits" too long after it is cooked before it is consumed. Lots of times when an outbreak occurs, before the testing is even confirmed, people kind of "have an idea" or a suspicion what it was they ate that wasn't right. They sort of "knew" but they ate it anyway. If food doesn't feel right- trust your intuition and don't eat it!! For this, the Bach flower essence Cerato might be helpful!!

Finally, I couldn't bring myself to post a picture of e.coli although there are millions of pictures of the bacteria taken under microscope. It just looks too creepy and crawly when blown up to that magnitude!! I chose the picture I did because e.coli outbreaks tend to be the type of cases where alternative medicine is welcomed. Conventional medicine often doesn't have the answers so it's time to return to our roots and consider other options.

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