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Metro Newsroom

Shigellosis Cases on the Rise in Louisville

Friday January 13, 2012

There is an outbreak of shigellosis in the Louisville area. There have been 60 laboratory confirmed cases in the last three months. This compares to an average of 62 confirmed cases per year in Louisville for the past five years. Approximately half of the new shigellosis cases are being seen in children three years of age and younger.

Shigellosis is a highly contagious diarrhea illness caused by Shigella bacteria. Symptoms often include watery or loose stools for several days, or in more severe cases abrupt onset of fever, nausea, abdominal cramping and vomiting. In some cases there could be blood or mucous in the stool.

Humans are the only significant source for Shigella bacteria. Bacteria leave the body of an infected person through the stool and enter another person when hands, food, or objects (such as toys) contaminated with stool, are placed in the mouth.

Individuals who fail to clean hands and under fingernails thoroughly after using the toilet may spread infection to others directly by physical contact or indirectly by contaminating food or objects. A person infected with Shigella bacteria can become ill within one to seven days, (usually two to four days) after being exposed.

“Hand washing is by far the most effective way to prevent shigellosis and to stop its spread in Louisville,” said Public Health and Wellness director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. “We urge everyone - particularly parents, children, childcare workers and teachers - to wash their hands often.”

People should wash their hands carefully, including under the fingernails, with soap and water. Washing hands is especially important:

· After handling items that may be soiled by stool (changing diapers).

· After each bowel movement.

· After helping children use the toilet.

· Before preparing or eating food.

The Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness recommends that:

· Children who have an illness with fever or diarrhea should not attend day care or school.

· Persons with symptoms that could be shigellosis: diarrhea, fever, nausea, etc., should be seen by their health care provider.

· Persons with known Shigella infections should not be employed to handle food, or to provide child or patient care until at least 48 hours after antibiotic treatment is completed and two negative stool cultures, at least 24 hours apart, have been obtained.

Teams consisting of environmental inspectors and nurses or health educators from the Department of Public Health and Wellness will go out to each childcare facility that has a new case of shigellosis and to each school having more than one new shigellosis case. The teams will inspect and evaluate areas of the facility where shigellosis is likely to spread such as bathrooms, changing tables, food preparation areas and storage areas.