Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome | Causes & Risk Factors


How do you get HUS?

Most cases of HUS occur after an E. coli infection. You can catch E. coli infection by doing one of the following:

  • Eating undercooked ground beef (for example, the inside of a hamburger that you have eaten was pink)
  • Drinking contaminated (impure) water
  • Drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk
  • Eating unwashed, contaminated raw vegetable and fruits
  • Working with cattle

Healthy beef and dairy cattle may carry E. coli in their intestines. When the animals are slaughtered, the meat can get contaminated with these bacteria. When the meat is ground, the E. coli bacteria get mixed throughout the meat.

Ponds and lakes can also become contaminated with E coli. Sometimes contaminated water is unknowingly used to irrigate crops.

The most common way to get infected with E. coli is to eat undercooked ground beef. You can be infected with E. coli if you don't use a high enough temperature to cook your beef, or if you don't cook it long enough. When you eat undercooked beef, the bacteria go into your stomach and intestines.

The bacteria can also be passed from person to person in day care centers and nursing homes. If you have this infection and don't wash your hands well with soap after going to the bathroom, you can give the bacteria to other people when you touch things, especially food.


Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome: An Emerging Health Risk by S Razzaq, M.D. (American Family Physician September 15, 2006, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060915/991.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 12/06