Shigella Cases Continue to Rise in Macon County


Source of Article:

Paul Osborne, Editor

I just received notification from the Macon County Health Department that "reports of a gastrointestinal illnesses identified as Shigella continue to rise in Macon County. With nineteen cases occurring so far in the month of April, the total is now at 69 cases since November 2008.

"Shigella is a disease in which those infected frequently experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The diarrhea is usually bloody and lasts for five to seven days. In higher risk populations such as infants, elderly, and persons with chronic health or immunosuppressive conditions, the disease may last longer and severe diarrhea may result in hospitalization and complications. Some people never experience any symptoms while they have Shigella.

"According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 1,300 cases of Shigellosis are reported in Illinois every year. Because some mild cases go unreported, it is expected that at least 20 times more people are actually infected with the bacterium. Laboratory tests can be done to diagnose Shigella and in some cases, antibiotics can be used to treat the condition.

"Shigella is passed from one person to another, usually through inadequate handwashing or eating contaminated food. In half of the reported cases in Macon County, the Shigellosis occurred among family members transferring it to each other. There have also been a number of day cares and pre-schools in which the illness has spread among attendees. The Shigella bacterium is present in infected personsí stools not only while they are sick, but also for weeks after.

"A key to overall disease prevention and also to preventing the spread of this disease is proper handwashing. Forty-nine percent (49%) of the reported cases have been in children under the age of five years old. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that all members of your family are washing their hands thoroughly. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water and dried off with a clean, dry paper towel. (see attached illustration of adequate hand-washing technique) Those infected with Shigella should frequently wash their hands and avoid preparing food or drinks for others. If a child in diapers is infected with Shigella, those changing the diapers should dispose of them in an air-tight, sealed garbage bag, disinfect the changing area, and wash their hands thoroughly. Persons who work in sensitive occupations like food service, daycares, or health care providersí offices should not be working if they have diarrhea and should consult with their physician."

The Macon County Health Department is asking health care providers to report suspected and confirmed cases of Shigella to the health department immediately so that appropriate follow-up of close contacts can begin and help prevent the disease from spreading.

This is certainly something we don't want spreading in our community.


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