Cincinnati health officials are reporting a surge in Shigellosis cases this summer prompting the Cincinnati Health Department (CHD) to encourage childcare workers and caregivers to practice frequent handwashing to curb the spread of the bacterium, Shigella.

Graph/Cincinnati Department of Health
Graph/Cincinnati Department of Health

During the July/August period in 2015, Cincinnati health officials have seen 20 cases of the gastrointestinal disease. This is compared to one case reported during the same period last year (see above).

Cases are also being reported in Northern Kentucky.

“Teaching and supervising hand washing is the single most important step caregivers can take to prevent infection,” said Patrick Burke, CHD epidemiologist. Shigella also spreads when a child puts contaminated objects, like food or toys, in their mouth.

Officials say Shigella is easily transferred through contaminated food, water or by a person who hasn’t washed their hands after handling a diaper or using the restroom.

Infections occur in children under age four and are more common in childcare settings where children play closely together. The most common symptom is diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, fever, nausea and bloody stool. Young children, the elderly and HIV-positive people are more likely to have severe symptoms including dehydration, bacteria in the blood and seizures.

Health officials advise caregivers:

  • Children sick with diarrhea or vomiting should not attend daycare; caregivers should call their health care provider.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after handling diapers, before preparing food or feeding and before eating.
  • Teach children to use soap and warm running water for 20 seconds.
  • Monitor young children to ensure adequate handwashing.
  • Disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with feces and shared toys frequently according to the product manufacturer’s instructions.