Health District Investigates Jump In Area Shigellosis Cases

WACO (August 4, 2014) The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is investigating what health officials say are higher than normal levels of shigellosis cases in the county.

Shigellosis is an infectious disease that causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting and stomach cramps with a day or two after exposure to the shigella bacteria.

The number of cases has been rising since June, the health district said.

As of Monday, 84 cases had been reported in the county so far this year and half of those occurred within the last two months, the city said.

Twenty-seven cases were reported in 2013.

No indication of contamination has been found in group settings or other public locations, but 75 percent of the cases have involved children 10 or younger, the health district said.

Children and especially those from 2 to 4 are most likely to get the disease and then spread it to family members.

FAQ on Shigella and Shigellosis
(Source: Waco-McLennan County Public Health District)

What is shigellosis?

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most people who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, vomiting and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Persons with shigellosis in the United States rarely require hospitalization. A severe infection with high fever may be associated with children less than 2 years old. Some persons who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the Shigella bacteria to others.

How is it spread?

The Shigella bacteria pass from one infected person to the next. Shigella are present in the diarrheal stools of infected persons while they are sick and for up to a week or two afterwards. Most Shigella infections are the result of the bacterium passing from stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person.

How is it treated?

Antibiotics can treat and lessen the length of the illness. Persons with mild infections usually recover quickly without antibiotic treatment. It is best to consult your family medical professional for the appropriate treatment for your family. Antidiarrheal agents such as loperamide (Imodium*) or diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil*) can make the illness worse and should be avoided.

Shigella is more common in summer than winter. Children, especially toddlers aged 2 to 4, are most likely to get shigellosis. Many cases are related to the spread of illness in child-care settings, and many are the result of the spread of illness in families with small children.

Some tips for preventing the spread of shigellosis:

Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
Dispose of soiled diapers properly
Disinfect diaper-changing areas after using them.
Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
Supervise hand washing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea
Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.


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