An outbreak of the gastrointestinal disease, shigellosis has sickened hundreds in the northern port cities of Iquique and Antofagasta in Chile, according to an El Ciudadano report (computer translated).


Health authorities in the Region of Tarapacá issued an epidemiological alert in early January after an explosive increase in cases. Since then, 538 people have been treated for the diarrheal disease during the period of Jan. 20 to Feb. 5.

According to hospital spokesman, Dr Ernesto Torres,60% (326) of the cases of shigellosis are in people 15-64 years.

Shigellosis is spread from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. The bacteria can be transferred easily among children because of their poor hand washing habits and tendency to put things in their mouths. People can also become infected by consuming food or drinks prepared by an infected person or handling or cleaning up feces.

Symptoms usually begin 24 to 72 hours after exposure and last about four to seven days without treatment; however, severe infections may require antibiotics.

The CDC offers the following recommendations for preventing the spread of Shigella: 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 and avoid swallowing water fromponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

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