The Orange County Health Department is reporting a substantial increase in Shigella cases county-wide, with 78 cases since the beginning of this year. The majority of these cases have been found in child care and school aged children.
The Shigella germ is actually a family of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass easily from person to person. The symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, nausea and vomiting. Most cases are mild, lasting several days to weeks, but severe complications such as dehydration can occur. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Persons with shigellosis in the United States rarely require hospitalization. Some persons who are infected may have no symptoms at all, yet may still pass the Shigella bacteria to others.
Shigella is most common in children between the ages of 2 – 4 and typically in day care settings. This can be attributed to infrequent or improper hand washing and can also be caused by a person touching contaminated areas such as diaper changing stations or toys that have not been cleaned. Any child with a diarrheal illness should not attend daycare or school until 24 hours after symptoms have resolved. Confirmed cases of Shigella are required to have 2 negative stool test results prior to returning to sensitive situations (daycare attendees or workers, food handlers, and health care workers).
Other ways you can get the disease include eating foods or water that could be contaminated with feces or contact with contaminated objects such as bathroom faucet handles, doorknobs, or toys.
In order to prevent the spread of Shigella, the Orange County Health Department recommends the following:
- Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
- Dispose of soiled diapers properly
- Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them.
- Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
- Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
- Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea
For more information, contact the Orange County Health Department at 407-858-1420 or visit www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/shigellosis.