Hemolytic-uremic syndrome is a kidney disease caused by an overabundance of damaged red blood cells filling the kidneys, hindering them from doing their normal filtering.
The red blood cells are damaged by infection in the digestive tract, usually caused by Escherichia coli, particularly the O157:H7 strain. Toxins from the bacteria can enter the blood and destroy the red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen through the body.
Common sources of E. coli O157:H7 are undercooked meat (most often ground beef); unpasteurized or raw milk; unwashed, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables; contaminated juice; and contaminated swimming pools or lakes.
Rarer causes can be taking certain medications such as chemotherapy, other viral or bacterial infections, and inheriting a certain type of hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Symptoms of this syndrome are like those of gastroenteritis, including vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and chills, and headache.
Medical help should be sought immediately.