VTEC and STEC infection

VTEC (or STEC infection) is a type of food poisoning that can cause diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Escherichia coli or E. coli are common germs (bacteria) normally found in the gut of people and warm-blooded animals.

There are many types of E coli, most of which are harmless and are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some types can cause serious illness.

One type of disease-causing E. coli is known as Shiga-toxin producing E. coli or STEC. This may also be referred to as Verotoxin E. coli (VTEC).

If you are concerned about VTEC or STEC, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

You can get VTEC from:

  • foods contaminated with the bacteria, such as meat, unpasteurised (raw) milk, water, fruit and vegetables.
  • objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacteria, such as toys, bathroom taps or doors and nappy change tables.
  • swallowing the bacteria.

People or animals infected with VTEC can pass it on in their poo (faeces) into soil, water and food.

To help stop VTEC spreading it's important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use a hand-sanitising gel.

Symptoms of VTEC or STEC include:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • runny diarrhoea that may have blood in it
  • fever
  • vomiting (being sick)

Symptoms usually appear three to four days after you become infected, but this can take as long as ten days.

People usually fully recover from VTEC in a week. Some people who are infected with VTEC do not have any symptoms, but they can still pass the bacteria in their poo (faeces).

If your doctor thinks you have VTEC/STEC they will ask for a faeces sample. This will confirm if you have VTEC/STEC.

If you have VTEC it's important to drink plenty of water while you have diarrhoea or vomiting. This will help to avoid dehydration.

To protect others you should also:

  • stay away from school, early childhood centres or work until two days after your symptoms have gone
  • avoid having visitors come to your home

VTEC/STEC is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. National Public Health Service - Northern Region is responsible for investigating the source of the illness and preventing its spread.

Once we are notified that someone has VTEC/STEC, we talk with them about how they may have got the disease, provide advice on preventing spread of the disease, undertake contact tracing and arrange for clearance faeces specimens.


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 22.11.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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