E. Coli – A Good Bacteria With a Bad Rap

E. Coli – A Good Bacteria With a Bad Rap

-Dannette Heeth, CEH, IP, NR-Paramedic


I took a cruise to the Bahamas in 2000, and just returned from a quick jaunt on a cruise to Cozumel in January 2016. As an Infection Preventionist, I noticed the difference in the on-board infection control immediately. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer at the front of every buffet, food served indoors rather than outside on the Lido deck, stewards cleaning the rooms in a method to prevent cross-contamination, and small paper strips on the back of restroom doors to prevent touching the door handle. Any building such as a prison or school, or where hundreds or thousands of people are confined to a relatively small area for an extended period of time such as a plane or passenger ship, can be the victim of a small epidemic such as E. coli. But, E. coli has received bad publicity, and it’s not just about contaminated food.


200px-Escherich,_TheodorIn 1885, Theodore Escherich, a German pediatric bacteriologist, discovered a new bacterium. This bacterium flourished naturally in the flora of the human intestine and also helped in the production of Vitamin K. Dr. Escherich also found that this bacterium, appropriately named Escherichia Coli with varying strains, also slowed down some pathogenic bacteria from further multiplying and making people sick. But as more research was conducted, it was found that there are also several strains of E. coli that, while typically not deadly, can cause several days of diarrhea and vomiting.

Escherichia coli O26 is the strain that was linked to the 2015 Chipotle incidenti that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia reported 53 cases in 9 states and 20 hospitalizations. To date, the exact cause of the outbreak was unknown, but an earlier incident at Chipotle early 2015 was linked to tomatoes and the Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad E. coli episodeii earlier in the same year was associated to tainted celery and diced onion.

vomitingSymptoms of E. coli exposure begin with abdominal cramping, vomiting and watery diarrhea and begin within 3-4 days after the bacteria enters the indigestive tract. The body’s natural remedy to rid the bacteria is through vomiting and diarrhea. While it is tempting to rush to the ER or doctor after the first event of vomiting, most cases are resolved with rest and an intake increase of fluids and are not emergent. Treatment through an urgent care clinic or ER should wait until the symptoms are at least 24 hours in duration because prescription anti-emetics such as Promethazine (Phenergan) and Ondansetron hydrochloride (Zofran) decrease peristalsis, the natural movement of food and fluid in the intestines, and can actually increase the time E. coli remains in the system.

cutting boardWhile most cases of E. coli begins with contaminated fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken and fish, once the bacteria is in the human bowel, it can be passed by fecal material left on unwashed hands. This is the chief cause of outbreaks in schools, jails, planes and ships. Therefore, proper and thorough hand washing is crucial in preventing widespread exposure. At home, raw vegetables and fruits can be sprayed with simple hydrogen peroxide and rinsed thoroughly.

Meat should be thoroughly cooked to 160 degrees and cutting boards should be vigourously washed between foods such as raw meats and veggies. Never use the same cutting board without washing it in between.

It seems in every type of massive outbreak whether it is influenza, rhinovirus (head cold), norovirus (Norwalk) or other similar virus and bacteria exposure, the key component for prevention begins with washing hands. Think “Clean Hands for Health” and we’ll all be just fine.

Sweet little boy showing you how clean his hands are


ii cdc.gov/ecoli/2015/o157h7-11-15/index.html



Dannette Heath CEH, IP, Paramedic, EVS Business Development

Dannette Young Heeth, CEH, IP, Paramedic
Varsity Facility Services/Southwest Division
Regional Business Development

During the late 1970’s, Dannette was working in an Arlington, Texas hospital where the Environmental Services Department was outsourced to a janitorial vendor. She became interested in the training and processes required to keep the hospital properly cleaned. On her breaks, she would hang out in the EVS manager’s office to learn everything she could. Several years later, Dannette started a janitorial service, and with her medical background, began seeing ALL buildings as infectious as hospitals. Later in life she married a Flight/Critical Care Paramedic that inspired her to fulfill her dream of being a paramedic as well. She completed EMT-Basic training in 2008, joined MedicOne ambulance company (formerly MedCare), completed paramedic school and licensure in 2010, began the paramedic/RN bridge program, and eventually wound up as a trauma paramedic in a busy ER on the weekends.

In addition to her weekend work as a paramedic, she is involved in business development during the week with the best janitorial service in the world….Varsity Facility Services. Her life is full and busy!

Since starting with Varsity Facility Services in January 2013, doing Regional Business Development for Texas and Arizona, Dannette has already had great success. With her medical background, she was instrumental in obtaining the DaVita Dialysis business (63 locations in Houston); and Mountain Park Health Centers (4 locations) in Arizona.She also played a key role in bringing Varsity’s industry-leading services to Prosperity Bank (Houston); and most recently, State Farm regional offices in Phoenix. She concentrates on locating Fortune 500 companies, medical facilities, universities and national companies that have multiple locations throughout the country who need the level of service that only Varsity is able to provide. She believes in meeting prospective customers face-to-face, and spends at least 60% of her week “in the field” meeting new people and spreading the good news about Varsity to companies that have never heard of us. Her motto is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get!”

Medical Experience
In addition to working with Varsity, Dannette is currently working in the medical field as a trauma paramedic on the weekends at Dallas Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.She has also been an American Red Cross (Dallas Chapter) volunteer since 2007 and is on two of their teams: their Medical Disaster Team and their Disaster Action Team for fires/floods for which she is the Team Leader.She worked as a MedicOne Medical Response paramedic for 4 years.She has also taught infection control to nurses at the Texas Hospital Association; hasbeen a speaker at TORCH (Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals); and served on the Public Health Board, City of Grand Prairie from 2010-2012.

Facility Experience
As well as her impressive medical experience, Dannette has extensive experience in Facility Management and Janitorial.Before joining Varsity Facility Services, Dannette owned numerous janitorial companies. She has also served as Executive Vice President at AHI Facility Services; and as Director of Medical Treatment Facilities at Aztec Facility Services. She served on the BSCAI Board of Directors from 1955-1998; served on the Proctor & Gamble Advisory Board of Directors from 1995-1998; and was a speaker for Sales & Marketing at the 2002 & 2003 ISSA Conventions.

• University of Texas at Arlington
• Southern Methodist University
• National College of Technical Instruction (Paramedic)
• DCCCD nursing (Phi Theta Kappa)

Other experience and certifications:
• Texas State Paramedic, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedic (NREMT-P)
• Infection Preventionist (IP)
• IICRC carpet cleaning
• FEMA disaster paramedic certified
• Wildlands Firefighter
• Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
• CPR instructor
• Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
• International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services, 16 Springs Fire Department (New Mexico).
• Disaster Action Team Leader – American Red Cross
• Certified Executive Housekeeper (CEH)

Awards / Honors:
• Won Dallas 100, Inc. 1994 for being one of the fastest growing companies in Dallas.
• 1995 Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Enterprise of the Year winner

Literary Accomplishments:
• Published over 50 articles with SERVICES magazine and CONTRACTING PROFITS
• Former Columnist for Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce, “Who’s Who in Grand Prairie”.

Dannette’s hobbies include playing the classical piano since the age of 3, playing pipe organ, writing hymns and she is currently working on 2 books: From Acne to Estrogen, and Crazy Stories from the ER.

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