The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is continuing to see cases in Northeast Arkansas of Shigellosis, an infectious disease that commonly causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Shigellosis is caused by the Shigella bacteria and is very contagious. The ADH urges residents to wash their hands and take other protective measures to keep Shigella from spreading.

Arkansas map/ National Atlas of the United States
Arkansas map/ National Atlas of the United States

Shigella is spread through bacteria-infected stool, both while people have diarrhea, and for up to two weeks after the diarrhea has ended. Exposure to even a tiny amount of contaminated fecal matter can cause infection. Most people who are infected develop symptoms a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms last for an average of five to seven days. Some people who have Shigellosis may not have symptoms, but they can still pass the bacteria to others.

Although most people who have diarrhea recover completely, it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration, so is of special concern for infants.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Shigellosis; however, the following precautions can help you reduce your risk of getting Shigellosis:

• Carefully washing your hands thoroughly with soap during key times:

  • Before eating.
  • After changing a diaper or helping to clean another person who has diarrhea.

• If you care for a child in diapers who has Shigellosis, promptly get rid of the soiled diapers in a lidded, lined garbage can. Wash your hands and the child’s hands carefully with soap and water immediately after changing the diapers. Any leaks or spills of diaper contents should be cleaned up right away.

• Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated swimming pools.

• Avoid sexual activity with those who have diarrhea or who recently recovered from diarrhea.