E. coli is a type of bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are different kinds of E. coli; most are harmless, but some can be harmful. The types of E. coli that can cause illness are most often spread through contaminated food or water.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is a harmful type of E. coli that is most often involved in outbreaks. It can cause stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. STEC infection can be mild and resolve itself after 5-7 days. It can also be severe for some people, and can lead to kidney failure.