State and county health officials are investigating a cluster of shigellosis in Linn County, Iowa. Linn County is in eastern Iowa and is the states second largest county.
Heather Meador, a nurse with Linn County Public Health said there are about 150 confirmed or suspected Shigella cases in the county.
Shigellosis is a disease caused by the bacterium, Shigella, which causes watery and sometimes bloody diarrhea. Symptoms of Shigellosis usually begin one to three days after infection and include diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
The current Shigella cases are thought to be a result of person-to-person contact. Any infected person can infect others by failing to properly wash their hands before handling food or coming into close contact with another person. Infections in households, pre-schools, child care facilities, and elderly and developmentally disabled living facilities are commonly spread in this manner. “The best way to prevent the spread of Shigella is by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and warm water,” said Pramod Dwivedi, Health Director of Linn County Public Health.
Shigellosis is an extremely contagious disease. Because of this, measures should be taken to prevent its spread. These measures include:
• Thoroughly wash hands with soap and running warm water for no less than 15 seconds. This should be done every time people use the toilet, change diapers, or before they eat or prepare any food.
• Infants and children should have their hands washed as above after a diaper change, after using the toilet, or before eating.
• Infected people should stay away from school, child care, or work while they have diarrhea.
Shigellosis typically goes away without treatment after four to seven days; however, if the infection is severe or the infected person has a poor immune system, antibiotic treatment may be needed. Healthcare workers, food service workers, childcare attendees, and childcare workers will need negative stool samples prior to returning to employment or daycare/childcare.