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How Do You Know If You Have E. Coli or Salmonella?

Reviewed on 2/17/2021

What is E. coli vs. salmonella?

E. coli and salmonella are both bacteria that can cause food poisoning. You can potentially catch pathogenic E.coli from infected animals or people whereas salmonella occurs in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and occasionally unwashed fruits and vegetables.
E. coli and salmonella are both bacteria that can cause food poisoning. You can potentially catch pathogenic E.coli from infected animals or people whereas salmonella occurs in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and occasionally unwashed fruits and vegetables.

E. coli and salmonella are both bacteria that can cause food poisoning. If certain strains of either bacteria enter your body, you can become physically ill. You may experience vomiting and diarrhea with both. Symptoms typically resolve themselves within a week, but if your symptoms persist you will need immediate medical attention

Both bacterias are primary causes of food poisoning, but it's important to know which one you have so that you can properly address your symptoms.  

What is E. coli?

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a bacteria that typically lives in your intestines. It’s also found in an animal's intestines. Most E. coli is actually harmless, but there are certain strains that cause illness through contaminated water or food. You can potentially catch pathogenic E.coli from infected animals or people. 

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that is a primary cause of foodborne illnesses. Salmonella occurs in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and occasionally unwashed fruits and vegetables. You can even get salmonella from handling certain pets.

What are symptoms and signs of E. coli vs. salmonella?

E. coli and salmonella may have similar symptoms as they are both bacterial infections. You may not experience all of these symptoms, and there are some differences. Most often, your symptoms will appear suddenly after you have become infected. 

Symptoms of E. coli

E. coli symptoms typically occur two to five days after you’ve been exposed to the harmful bacteria. There are some cases where infected people have no symptoms at all but can still spread the bacteria to others.

Symptoms of E. coli include: 

Symptoms of salmonella

Salmonella symptoms can occur within six hours of exposure to the bacteria. Or it could take six days before you know you’re infected. Salmonella typically lasts four days to a week. Common symptoms include: 

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have the following: 

QUESTION

Bowel regularity means a bowel movement every day. See Answer

What are causes of E. coli vs. salmonella?

There are several causes of E. coli and salmonella. E. coli can be a healthy or harmful bacteria, depending on the type that you encounter. Salmonella is a harmful group of bacteria that can be found in certain foods and on certain pets.  

Causes of E. coli

E. coli can be found in water, food, soil, or on surfaces that have been contaminated with animal or human feces. People can spread E. coli, even if they don’t have symptoms. You can become infected with E. coli by the following: 

  • Eating contaminated food like undercooked hamburgers or raw produce
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk, juice, or cider
  • Swallowing contaminated water in a lake, stream, river, spring, pond, swimming pool, hot tub, or water park fountains
  • Contact with farm animals or pets
  • Touching contaminated surfaces or objects, then touching your mouth 
  • Not washing your hands after using the bathroom then eating

Causes of salmonella

Salmonella lives in the intestines of animals, like birds. It is usually transmitted by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Typhoid fever is caused by a certain type of salmonella that only lives in humans and is passed through contaminated water or food. You will typically be infected by salmonella from contaminated: 

  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables

How to diagnose E. coli vs. salmonella

Most often, E. coli and salmonella cases will go unreported because they typically resolve within a week. If you do visit the doctor for food poisoning, they will test a sample of your stool to accurately diagnose the bacteria in your body. Proper diagnosis can prevent secondary transmission that lead to outbreaks.

If you have concerning severe symptoms like those listed above you should contact your doctor immediately. They will be able to run tests and determine what strain of bacteria is present in your stool. This will help local public health departments take the necessary protocol for managing a potential outbreak.

Salmonella and E. coli have very similar symptoms, so your doctor will send your stool off to the lab to determine if salmonella or E. coli is present in your system. 

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Treatments of E. coli vs. salmonella

In most cases, you will be able to recover from E. coli or salmonella within four to seven days without treatment. Your doctor will determine the best path of treatment for you depending on the severity of your infection, your age, and your overall health. If you have severe diarrhea, you may need rehydration through IV fluids.

Getting plenty of fluids is an important part of your treatment plan. Antibiotics are not recommended to treat E. coli or salmonella infections. Unless your infection has spread to your bloodstream, which is a serious condition and would require immediate treatment of antibiotics.

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References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “E. coli (Escherichia coli).”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Salmonella symptoms.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Salmonella.

Clinical Infectious Diseases: “Escherichia coli O157:H7: clinical, diagnostic, and epidemiological aspects of human infection.”

John Hopkins Medicine: “Salmonella infections.”

Minnesota Department of Health: “E. coli 0157:H7 and HUS fact sheet.”

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