Elton John Cancels Concerts Due to Illness

Singer-songwriter Elton John has canceled concerts scheduled for Portland and Seattle due to illness. Elton has been advised by his doctor to postpone these performances due to a serious case of E.coli bacterial infection and influenza. The concert tour, called Face2Face, also features Piano Man Billy Joel, who had also canceled some dates due to influenza-like symptoms. It is unknown whether John has H1N1 flu or seasonal influenza. The source of the E.coli infection has not been reported.

The topic of influenza has been covered a number of times in recent blog entries:
Dancing with the Stars while Dodging the Flu: Celebrity Flu Precautions
Celebrity Swine Flu

E. coli, short for Escherichia coli
, is a kind of bacteria that lives in the intestines. Most species of E. coli are totally harmless, however some strains can cause illness. The two main areas where E.coli can cause disease are the intestines, and the urinary tract.

One of the E. coli strains that causes disease in the intestinal tract is called E.coli 0157:H7. It is the organism that is responsible for outbreaks of diarrhea caused eating undercooked ground beef or raw vegetables. The illness is transmitted by food or water contaminated with animal or human feces. Symptoms include severe watery diarrhea (which can turn bloody) and abdominal cramps. Low grade fever, nausea and/or vomiting, and bloating can also occur. Symptoms typically begin 3-5 days after eating contaminated food, although they may occur as soon as one and as late as a week later. Most patients will get better in about 5 days, with symptomatic treatment of rest, and plenty of fluids. Antibiotics may be useful in children and people with weak immune systems. The most common complication is called hemolytic uremic syndrome. People with this problem get hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and renal failure (kidney damage). Children are most likely to get this complication.

E.coli is a major cause of bladder infections, accounting for about 80 percent of infections. Normally urine is sterile, i.e. it does not contain any bacteria. However, the urethra (the tube between the bladder and the outside) and bladder can become contaminated with germs from stool and lead to a bladder or urethral infection. This is more common in women than men because of the closeness of the urethral and anal openings, and the shortness of the urethra compared to men. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will have at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Men over 50 also have an increased risk of urinary tract infection.  Symptoms include:

  • A strong persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Pain in the lower part of your abdomen or lower back
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria) or cloudy, strong-smellingurine

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. Failure to treat can lead to more serious infections that may include the kidneys.

For more information:

E. coli infections
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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