What is hemolytic uremic syndrome?
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a rare but serious illness that affects the kidneys and blood clotting system. It is more common in children than in adults and may be mild or severe. In severe cases, kidney function is greatly reduced, and dialysis may be necessary. Abnormalities of the blood clotting system can cause a tendency to bleed, and the red blood count may be low (anemia). Transfusions are often needed in severe cases. Fortunately, most people with HUS recover completely, and kidney function returns to normal. However, a prolonged hospital stay is often required.
What causes HUS?
In most cases, HUS is a serious complication of an intestinal Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection (STEC), especially with E. coli O157:H7.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms usually appear about 3 to 10 days after the onset of diarrhea. Diarrhea may have resolved, and the case may appear to be improving when the onset of HUS occurs.
How is HUS infection diagnosed?
HUS cannot be diagnosed with a single laboratory test. Physicians use the results of several tests and their medical evaluation to determine if a person has HUS. These include tests of kidney function, blood clotting factors, and blood counts.
What is the treatment for HUS?
There is no known medical treatment that will prevent the development of HUS. Fortunately, the majority of children will not develop this complication. For those that do, supportive treatment is provided for kidney function (dialysis) and blood clotting (transfusions).
How can HUS be prevented?
Since hamburger and ground beef may be contaminated with STEC known to cause HUS, cook ground beef thoroughly. Ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees F. If a thermometer is not used, the beef should be cooked until the meat is no longer pink, and juices run clear.
Do not consume raw milk or unpasteurized dairy products.
Avoid unpasteruized juices.
Wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
Do not drink or swallow water in lakes, ponds, or streams.
Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat. Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties. Wash meat thermometers in between tests of patties that require further cooking.
Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially those that will not be cooked – even if they will be peeled.
- Wash your hands immediately after contact with animals (especially cattle) or their environment when visiting farms or petting zoos.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.