Shiga Toxin Producing E. Coli (STEC)

What is STEC?

Shiga toxin producing E.coli (STEC) is a nasty toxin producing bacteria, also known as VTEC (Verotoxin producing E.coli). 

It causes a severe gastrointestinal illness with about a third of cases ending up in hospital. . 

The main symptoms of STEC include watery diarrhoea, blood in the diarrhoea, severe stomach pains and vomiting. Occasionally people with STEC develop a life-threatening complication called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome.

For more information download the following resources:
STEC poster
(PDF 541 KB)

STEC brochure (PDF 380 KB)

Gastroenteritis brochure (PDF 445 KB)

How common is STEC?

Taranaki has one of the highest rates of STEC in New Zealand.  On average there are about 60 cases notified each year in Taranaki. 

For more information on STEC in Taranaki click here

Who is most at risk?

A study on STEC in Taranaki between 2006 and 2015 found that the group most at risk were children aged 1-4 years exposed to a farm setting or to farm animals.

For more information on the study “Verotoxin producing Escherichia coli infections in Taranaki between 2006-2015: a serious farm-related illness of increasing incidence in children” click here (see page 5)

How can you reduce your chances of catching STEC?

The best prevention is regular hand washing especially before eating, after helping out on a farm, and after touching animals. 

Other ways to reduce your chances of catching STEC include cooking meat well, boiling untreated water and raw milk before drinking it, and not swimming in water where you can’t see your feet.

If you want to talk to someone about STEC:

  • Talk to your nurse or doctor or call Healthline 0800 611 116
  •  If you have questions about the public health aspects of STEC then give us a call at 06 753 7798 and ask for the on-call Health Protection Officer

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Last updated: Friday, February 10, 2023

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