District urges vigilance as Shigella spreads

Published 4:41 am Friday, November 4, 2011


Southwest Public Health District

Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant said cases of shigellosis, a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea (often bloody), fever and stomach cramps, have been confirmed in additional counties, and wants the public to take precautions to help stop the disease from spreading.

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“It is more widespread than just Worth and Dougherty counties,” Grant said. “Seeing it in multiple counties in the District does not particularly surprise us, since Shigella is easily spread when infected persons share food or beverages or touch surfaces that are then touched by others.”

However, the spread of Shigella from an infected person to others can be stopped by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and warm water.

“Wash for at least 20 seconds, which is approximately how long it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice, and make sure you clean around and under the nails. Towel-drying is recommended when possible,” Grant said.

Cleaning surfaces, especially with cleansers containing bleach, is also important, but the best way to prevent the infection from spreading is by good hand hygiene, she said.

The first clusters of Shigella were identified in September among young Worth County children, Grant said. However, infections have now been confirmed in seven counties and are also being seen in older children and adults.

“The infection is easily spread and can linger in a community if proper precautions aren’t taken,” Grant said.

There is no vaccine to prevent Shigella.

“Some people who are affected may not have symptoms, but may pass the bacteria on to others,” Grant said.

Also, people with shigellosis should not prepare food or drinks for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the Shigella bacterium, or if they have had no diarrhea for at least seven days. Sick children should not return to school until they produced fully-formed stools for 48 hours and are free of symptoms.

The infection usually clears up in five to seven days.

Public Health’s recommendations regarding Shigella include:

• Do not use Lomotil (Diphenoxylate and Atropine), Imodium (loperamide) or similar over-the-counter medications for diarrhea, which will worsen the illness and prolong bacterial shedding.

• Consult your healthcare provider if you have symptoms.

• Schools and childcare providers are to contact their county health department if there are two or more children with symptoms of Shigella.

For more information about Shigella, go to southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or cdc.gov, or contact your county health department.