In a follow-up on the increase in Shigellosis cases in southeastern New Mexico,  The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) continues its investigation of a 10-month increase in cases of Shigella sonnei infections in Lea, Chaves, and Eddy counties.

Counties of New Mexico
New Mexico map/US Government

Since May 2016, 226 confirmed and epidemiologically-linked cases have been identified in the southeastern counties. The cases, again, are largely among preschool and school-aged children.

“Shigellosis is hard to control once it’s entrenched in a community,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher. “Habits have to change so Shigellosis can be prevented.”

NMDOH encourages parents to, where possible, not send their children to daycare or school when they are sick as it spreads shigellosis and other illnesses to other children and their families.

Shigellosis is an acute bacterial disease of the intestines caused by several species of the bacterium, Shigella. It is typified by loose stools, frequently containing blood and mucus (dysentery), accompanied by fever, vomiting, cramps and occasionally toxemia.

More severe complications may include convulsions in children, Reiter’s syndrome and hemolytic uremic syndrome depending on the species of Shigella implicated.

It is transmitted primarily by fecal-oral person to person means. It can also occur through contaminated food or water. Those that are primarily responsible for transmission are those that fail to wash their hands thoroughly after defecation.

Because Shigella is resistant to gastric acid, a person can get infected with as little as 10 organisms.

After getting infected symptoms usually appear 1-3 days later. It can be transmitted during the acute phase of infection until approximately four weeks after illness when the organism is no longer present in the feces. Asymptomatic carriers can also infect others.

Diagnosis is confirmed through bacteriological culture of feces. Treatment of shigellosis may include fluid and electrolyte replacement if there are signs of dehydration.

Antibiotics can shorten the course of infection, the severity of illness and the period of time a person may excrete the pathogen. Because of some antibiotic resistance, a antibiotic susceptibility test should be performed to determine which antibiotic will be effective.