Just days after issuing a health alert concerning two shigellosis cases in students that attended CICS Jackson School, The Winnebago County (IL) Health Department (WCHD) reported seeing a surge of cases of the gastrointestinal bacterial infection during the past month.
Since October, health officials reported seeing 22 confirmed shigellosis cases, primarily in children in daycare and elementary schools.
Shigellosis is a diarrheal disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Every year, about 18,000 laboratory confirmed cases of Shigella are reported in the United States: 1,300 in Illinois. In all of 2014, Winnebago County reported 22 confirmed cases.
The Winnebago County Health Department is working closely with local healthcare partners, daycares, and elementary schools in Winnebago County. “The spread of Shigella from an infected person to other persons can be stopped by careful handwashing with soap and water.
Frequent, supervised handwashing of all children should be followed in daycare facilities and in homes with young children (including children in diapers). When possible young children with Shigella infection who are still in diapers should not be in contact with uninfected children” said Winnebago County Health Department Public Health Administrator, Dr. Sandra Martell.
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.
Because Shigella is resistant to gastric acid, a person can get infected with as little as 10 organisms.
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 from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.