Food-borne illness on the rise in Lubbock

By Jeremy Henderson | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Source of Article:


Wash your hands. Wash them often. Shigellosis is on the rise.

Forty-four cases of the food-borne diarrheal illness – five times as many as expected for this time of year – have been reported to the the city of Lubbock Health Department since Sept. 6.


“It’s a cause for concern but not a cause for alarm,” said Judy Davis, a public health nurse with the department.

In addition to diarrhea lasting from four to seven days, symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, nausea and fever.

“It makes you feel pretty yucky,” Davis said.

Shigella, the bacterium responsible, is spread via the “fecal to oral route” according to Davis. It can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, as well as by contact with contaminated surfaces such as playground equipment, shopping carts and doorknobs.

“Shigella is quite contagious,” said Davis. “It is spread through the stool and can show up within one to three days of being infected, but as soon as 12 hours. Because it is so contagious, we like to alert doctors and people when we start to see a rise in cases to try to avoid an outbreak.”

Though Davis said shigella is a common consequence of children returning to school, the reasons behind the spike in reported cases remain a mystery.

“One thing we suspect may be happening ... is that doctors might simply be diagnosing more cases,” she said. “We had some outbreaks (of other intestinal illnesses) in the nation and the states this spring and summer, and physicians have been doing stool cultures more. I think we’re catching cases that we might not have caught otherwise.”

Though school nurses are not authorized to make medical diagnoses, Lubbock Independent School District is taking notice.

“We’re aware of the heightened awareness,” said Brian Morris, communications coordinator. “Whenever children present with diarrhea-like symptoms, they are, as a matter of policy, excluded from other students. Parents are contacted to pick them up and take them home ... and we are encouraging parents to have their child checked by their primary care physician.”

Despite hoping for the best, the Health Department is prepping for the worst.

“We’re really just trying to get people to focus on hand washing, especially after going to the bathroom,” Davis said. “That’s your best best. Before you put anything in your mouth, wash your hands and to avoid touching your face and mouth in general. We can’t stress hand washing enough.”



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