Shigellosis is a contagious illness that causes symptoms such as abdominal cramping, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Around this time last year, approximately 100 cases had been reported statewide. This year that number is more than 1,000.
“Shigellosis has a cyclical trend, so we would expect to see an overall increase in cases some years,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “This year, we have seen a strong association with younger children, which has helped drive the outbreak and significantly increased the number of cases.”
Shigellosis is spread from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. The bacteria can be transferred easily among children because of their poor hand washing habits and tendency to put things in their mouths. People can also become infected by consuming food or drinks prepared by an infected person or handling or cleaning up feces.
Symptoms usually begin 24 to 72 hours after exposure and last about four to seven days without treatment; however, severe infections may require antibiotics. State health officials recommend visiting a health care provider and being tested for shigellosis if you develop vomiting or diarrhea (particularly if it is bloody). All individuals with suspected shigellosis should drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Children who attend school and daycare need to be symptom free and treated with appropriate antibiotics or have two negative tests before returning to school. Adults who have shigellosis and work in food service or health care settings should not attend work while symptomatic.
Some people with shigellosis may not have symptoms, but can still spread the infection to others.
Hand washing is the single best defense against shigellosis. Hands should be washed after using the restroom and before eating or preparing food. Adults should supervise children to make sure they are washing their hands properly for at least 20 seconds while using soap and warm water.