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Amador County Shigella Outbreak

Posted in Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls,Shigella on September 8, 2019

A significant increase in acute frequent diarrhea has resulted in several cases of Shigellosis in Amador County. The County’s Environmental Health and Public Health announced the outbreak after a number of people were diagnosed with Shigellosis dysentery.

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection that causes food poisoning. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting. It is caused by bacteria called Shigella. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but they will keep shedding the bacteria in their feces, which can pass onto other individuals.

The health officials are actively investigating the outbreak. They have enforced safe food safety practices at a lone establishment that has been associated with reports of illness.

How does these dangerous bacteria gets into our food?

Shigella is spread through fecal-oral route. It is highly contagious, which means just a small amount of germs are enough to make someone sick. People shed Shigella in their stool when they are infected and up to a week or two after their symptoms are gone.

Here are a few ways through which other people can get infected:

  • Getting shigella germs on their hands and then contaminating other surfaces or food products that they touch. This can happen when you are taking care of someone who is sick like a child or a sick person.
  • Eating food prepared or handled by someone who is sick by shigellosis. It can happen at home or food processing levels like
    • Someone who collects and handles fruits and vegetables at a field is sick
    • Anyone who is in charge of processing food like packaging is infected and doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet
    • A restaurant worker who handles the food products when he is sick.
  • Swallowing recreational water like in a pool or river water that is contaminated with the stool containing Shigella bacteria.
  • Having sexual contact with someone who has been sick or recently recovered from shigellosis.

After you inform your healthcare provider about your symptoms, he might ask you to take a stool sample to check for Shigella bacteria.

Treatment:

Shigellosis often goes without any treatment. Sometimes, doctors might prescribe some antibiotics to those who are having severe symptoms and other medical conditions. Antibiotics decrease the intensity of the illness and helps in recovering better. In a few cases, shigella bacteria isn’t killed with antibiotics due to antimicrobial resistance. In these cases, taking antibiotics might make the bacteria more resistant. When this happens, the infection is treated by managing complications until it goes away.

Managing dehydration is also an important part of the treatment. Frequently hydrate yourself with water and other hydration drinks with electrolytes. Fruit juices and soda won’t work as they have too much sugar and not enough electrolytes in them.

You should eat your normal diet. Doctors recommend that eating your usual, well-balanced diet will help you feel better faster. Although try to avoid foods that are spicy and high in fat and sugar. Also avoid coffee and alcohol for about 2-3 days after symptoms have disappeared.

It’s not advisable to take any medicines to stop diarrhea or vomiting as this keeps the bacteria into your system longer and make infection worse. It’s better that the bacteria makes it way out of your body through diarrhea, so you can start recovering soon.

High-risk individuals who are most likely to get infected by Shigellosis:

  • Young children, especially the ones who are not properly potty-trained can get this disease. They are also more likely to spread the infection to other children and their family members. Many outbreaks of Shigella are frequently reported at childcare settings and schools.
  • Travellers who are on a vacation or trip to developing countries can get infected with Shigellosis. They can pick up antibiotic resistant Shigella that is difficult to treat. Travellers can get sick by drinking water, food or surfaces that have Shigella bacteria. It’s important that you stick to eating at places that maintain proper hygiene (one easy trick is to follow the locals and eat there), drink safe water like mineral/ packaged ones and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Gay or bisexual men are also more likely to get Shigellosis during sexual activity when soiled fingers of one person might get into the mouth of another person.
  • Those with weakened immune system can also get shigellosis easily. People with HIV or those undergoing medical treatment like chemotherapy can also suffer from serious complications that can be life-threatening.
  • Shigella germs can also easily spread within small social groups and settings as they are highly contagious.

Prevention:

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent shigellosis. Here are some tips to reduce your chances of getting shigellosis:

  • Properly wash your hands with soap and water
    • Before eating or preparing food
    • Before handling food for processing
    • After changing a diaper or helping a sick person in the bathroom
  • When caring for a child who has shigellosis, dispose away soiled diapers immediately in a covered and lined garbage bin. Wash your hands and the child’s hands properly once you are done with the changing.
  • Don’t swallow water from recreational settings like ponds, lakes etc.
  • When traveling always follow the basic food safety rules
    • Eat at proper hygienic places. Follow the locals because like you they don’t want to fall sick either.
    • Tap water is not safe to drink so read guidelines of drinking water before you visit the country.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry a hand sanitizer with you.
    • Eat safe foods like those cooked thoroughly, pick fruits with thick coverings and have dairy at large commercialized chains.
  • Avoid sexual activity with those who have diarrhea or recently recovered from shigellosis.

If you are sick with shigellosis, here is what you can do to prevent others from getting sick:

  • Wash hands before preparing or eating food and after using the bathroom.
  • Don’t prepare or handle food when you are sick.
  • Don’t share your food with anyone.
  • If you work in a restaurant or a food processing establishment, take leave till you start feeling better.
  • Don’t swim in public areas.

By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)