Escherichia coli or simply E-coli. There are hundreds of E coli strains. Most of these bacteria are harmless and occur naturally in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Some forms of E coli bacteria are essential to our health. Others, such as E. coli O157:H7 are potentially deadly forms of bacteria that may cause severe illness. Most E. coli bacteria will cause no problem in humans or animals. Problems arise when the E coli bacterium gets somewhere they shouldn’t or an infection by one of the dangerous strains, of E coli O157:H7.
E coli O157:H7 however produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe bloody diarrhea or non-bloody diarrhea. Although the number of organisms required to cause the disease is not known it is suspected to be very small. The organism is difficult to identify if testing is not done during early onset of infection. E coli can be confirmed by testing a stool sample, (culture) taken by your vet.
Undercooked beef and unpasturized milk are common sources of infection, but there have also been outbreaks from other foods such as raw vegetables.
E coli can be transmitted through inadvertent contact with fecal matter during processing of animal foods, or because of improper food handling. Improper handling may include contamination by infected food handlers who have not effectively washed their hands before touching the food or utensils that come into contact with the food. Unwashed hands spread the bacteria widely and quickly throughout the environment. Wash hands especially after handling raw meat products to prevent contamination of other foods. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly using only clean water
It is particularly important not to overlook safe food handling strategies for food products that are consumed uncooked such as fruits, and vegetables etc:
Direct contact with animals is not necessary to contract, or transmit most Zoonotic diseases; indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment is sufficient to spread infections.
Frequent culprits of diarrhea in hamsters are E. coli. But Campylobacter is the most common. Cryptosporidium, (Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite and a cause of infectious diarrhea in humans and animals.) These are normal bacteria that are found in the intestines of a hamster .
It is a less commonly know fact that animal derived pet treats are often contaminated with salmonella, and the cooking and dehydration process used to make pet treats might not be effective at eliminating the potentially deadly bacteria.