Published On: Tue, Mar 25th, 2014

Shigella infections on the rise in Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade County health officials are advising parents, schools and daycare centers to take precautionary action to prevent the spread of shigellosis in light of significant increases of the bacterial gastrointestinal infection this year.

Image/David Benbennick

Image/David Benbennick

According to a press release today, since January 1, 2014, the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County has investigated over 100 confirmed cases of shigellosis surpassing the last three year average of 100 cases.

The majority of the reported cases are in children aged 1 through 9.

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 Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County recommends the following preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting and spreading Shigellosis:

• Proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent shigellosis and many other diseases
• Wash hands after: bathroom visits, diaper changes, play time, handling of pets or soil, before and after food preparation and eating
• Hand washing among children should be frequent and supervised by an adult, especially in child care centers and homes with children who have not been fully toilet-trained.
• Everyone who changes a child’s diaper should immediately wash the hands of both the changer and the child carefully with soap and warm water
• Proper hand washing consists of lathering hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to rinse the palms, backs of hands, between fingers, under fingernails, and around wrists.
• Clean and disinfect bathrooms, diaper changing areas, and soiled toys on a routine basis
• People who have diarrhea should not prepare food or drinks for others
• People with diarrhea should stay home from daycare, school or work until one full calendar day after symptoms stop

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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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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