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Published On: Thu, Oct 24th, 2013

Florida: Broward County issues a health advisory due to increased shigella infections

Health officials at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County are advising parents, schools and daycare centers to take precautionary action to prevent the spread of Shigellosis due to reports of increasing numbers of the gastrointestinal infection.

Broward County Florida  Image/David Benbennick

Broward County Florida
Image/David Benbennick

According to a statement emailed to The Global Dispatch, Patrick Jenkins, MPH, Director of Epidemiology and HIV Surveillance for the health department noted, “Even though the incidence of Shigellosis is generally highest during this time of year in Broward County, this week we have confirmed a higher than normal number of cases of Shigellosis among school aged children.

“Currently we have identified 8 confirmed cases and are in the process of investigating 33 probable cases. Symptoms include watery and/or bloody diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping.

“Please remember, careful attention to hand washing is the single most important way to prevent transmission of bacteria. The Florida Department of Health in Broward is working closely with Broward County Public Schools and other community partners on this matter”.

Shigellosis is an acute bacterial disease of the intestines caused by several species of the bacterium, Shigella. It is typified by loose stools, frequently containing blood and mucus (dysentery), accompanied by fever, vomiting, cramps and occasionally toxemia.

It can cause bacillary dysentery because of the invasive ability of the organism that may result ulcerations and abscesses of the intestines.

It rarely spreads to the bloodstream.

More severe complications may include convulsions in children, Reiter’s syndrome and hemolytic uremic syndrome depending on the species of Shigella implicated.

This diarrheal disease is found worldwide with the vast majority of cases and deaths being in children. Outbreaks usually occur where there are crowded conditions and where personal hygiene is poor: prisons, day care centers and refugee camps are three examples.

It is transmitted primarily by fecal-oral person to person means. It can also occur through contaminated food or water. Those primarily responsible for transmission are people that fail to wash their hands thoroughly after defecation.

Because shigella is resistant to gastric acid, a person can be infected with as little as 10 organisms.

After being infected, symptoms usually appear 1-3 days later. It can be transmitted during the acute phase of infection until approximately four weeks after illness when the organism is no longer present in the feces. Asymptomatic carriers can also infect others.

Diagnosis is confirmed through bacteriological culture of feces. Treatment of shigellosis may include fluid and electrolyte replacement if there are signs of dehydration.

Antibiotics can shorten the course of infection, the severity of illness and the period of time a person may excrete the pathogen. Because of some antibiotic resistance, an antibiotic susceptibility test should be performed to determine which antibiotic would be effective.

The CDC has six simple steps to help prevent and avoid this uncomfortable, inconvenient and occasionally serious illness.

  • 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

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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