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Westin Bonaventure Hotel Shigella Outbreak

Posted in Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls,Shigella on September 14, 2023

This week, Alameda County Public Health Department, in coordination with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced it is investigating an outbreak of shigellosis likely associated with a union delegate conference held at a hotel venue in downtown Los Angeles from August 21-24, 2023. Here is everything we know about this Westin Bonaventure Hotel Shigella Outbreak:

Westin Bonaventure Hotel Shigella Outbreak

The event included an estimated 300+ attendees from across California. As of August 31, 2023, CDPH is reporting six shigellosis cases from four California local health jurisdictions among event attendees, including Alameda County residents. At least three/six cases were PCR+ for Shigella; culture and additional subtyping are pending. Known illness onset dates were on 8/25/23; at least two patients have been hospitalized. As of September 1, 2023, Alameda County is reporting three shigellosis cases to CDPH, all of whom attended this event

What is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacteria. Shigella infections are responsible for 300,000 illnesses and 600 deaths per year in the United States. The hospitalization rate associated with Shigella is also very high with an estimated 62,000 hospitalizations per year.

How Do I Know if I Have Shigella?

The best way to find out if you have Shigella is to see your physician and obtain a stool test. Symptoms of a Shigella infection include:

  • watery diarrhea
  • sometimes bloody diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal cramping
  • mucus in stool
  • sometimes a fever
  • tenesmus (a painful feeling f needing to pass stool even when the bowels are empty)

Some individuals, when infected with Shigella bacteria, may not show any signs or symptoms of the infection. The bacteria, however, will continue to live in their intestinal tract until the body’s immune system has completely destroyed it.

Those who are infected and show symptoms will do so within one to three days after ingesting infected food or drink. Usually, healthy adults will recover within five days to a week. But those who are in the high risk group may have longer, more severe infections.

If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above, medical attention is recommended. Shigella infections may have long-term complications. Early medical attention may help reduce the likelihood of complication.

Is Shigella Easy to Catch?

Shigella is one of the most communicable type of bacterial diarrhea that exists. No person is immune to Shigellosis. Considering the nastiness of the virus, there is an ongoing research for development of Shigella vaccine. Since children are a major victim of this virus, most of the cases of Shigella will automatically go down once the vaccine is injected.

Shigella can spread by a relatively tiny dose of infection (less than 100 bacteria are required to catch the disease). That is a very tiny amount of bacteria, which is why it is so easy for Shigella to transfer from person to person.

Another reason why Shigella is so dangerous because the bacteria thrives easily in the intestine of humans, which makes it so easy to transfer both from person to person and contamination of food, water, etc.

Where Could Shigella Come From?

Shigella is the bacteria that causes the illness, shigellosis. It is spread from contact with infected feces and also lives naturally in fresh water. Shigella spreads quite easily, with microscopic amounts causing illness. To make matters worse, those who are infected can continue to spread the infection long after their own symptoms end. This can end up being several weeks after they feel better.

The primary way for Shigella bacteria to spread is though inadvertently swallowing it. This can occur in several different ways. It often happens when someone touches their mouth after touching surfaces – such as bathroom fixtures, changing tables, door handles, or other high traffic contact surfaces. You can get it from swallowing water from a lade or improperly treated swimming pool. It can come from consuming contaminated drinking water or eating food prepared by someone with a Shigella infection. Any contact with poop is a high-risk activity – such as changing the diaper of a child or caring for a family member with a Shigella infection. In some cases, sexual contact with someone with a Shigella infection or recently recovered from one can spread the illness.

Potential Long-Term Complications

Serious Illness

Some may recover without medical intervention. Some may need some help managing serious symptoms leading to dehydration. Others may experience serious, and sometimes life-threatening illness as a result of Shigella infection. Reactive arthritis, bloodstream infections, seizures, and hemolytic-uremic syndrome are serious complications.

Reactive Arthritis

Around 2% of those infected with certain strains of Shigella will experience reactive arthritis from infection. These can cause joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination. It often lasts around 3 to 5 months, can go on for years in some cases, developing into chronic arthritis.

Bloodstream Infections

Around 0.4 to 7.3% of people infected by Shigella bacteria develop bloodstream infection. This occurs when germs inside the gut make their way into the bloodstream. For Shigella, this happens when the bacteria damages the intestinal lining. This type of complication is more common in those with a weakened immune system such as those with diabetes, HIV, cancer, or severe malnutrition. It is more commonly seen in children than adults. Shigellosis that leads to a bloodstream infection has a higher risk of fatality compared to those who do not migrate to the bloodstream.


Children are more likely to experience seizures when experiencing Shigellosis, and they often resolve without treatment. High fever, low blood sugar and abnormal blood electrolytes are commonly seen in children that experience Shigella-related seizures.

Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome

Another rare complication that more commonly infects children with Shigellosis is Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). This complication is a type of kidney failure that results when the bacterial infection destroys red blood cells, which in turn produces a toxin that blocks the kidneys’ ability to filter.

Bloody diarrhea is often common with this type of infection. HUS is more likely to present after treatment with antimicrobial resistant drugs are started after 4 days of symptoms. This scary complication is the leading cause of death in Shigella dysenteriae outbreaks.

What to Do If You Are Affected By this Outbreak

If you or a family member are affected by this outbreak, there are a few tips to help you through it.

Wash Hands Often

Proper hand washing is key to preventing the spread of Shigellosis. Use warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds especially after using the restroom and before and after eating or drinking.

Us a Separate Bathroom

If available, use a separate bathroom from other household members. If this is not an option, be sure to clean and disinfect the bathroom after each use.

Do Not Prepare Food for Others

While you are sick and even a little while afterward, do not prepare food for others. The risk of spreading the harmful bacteria into food is too great to risk it.

Do Not Go Swimming

Swimming provides an opportunity to spread the harmful bacteria to others. It only takes microscopic amounts to become sick.

Stay Home

Do not go to school, daycare, or jobs in healthcare or food service. The CDC recommends a minimum of at least 24 hours after symptoms (without taking medications that mask those symptoms).

Create a Food Diary

Write down the foods you have eaten and where you got them in the days leading up to falling ill. Most people think about the last meal they consumed prior to becoming sick. Often exposure occurs days prior. The faster you put those facts down on paper, the better. Our memories may fade and information could be lost over time.

How The Lange Law Firm Can Help

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water. When restaurants cause Shigella food poisoning outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable. The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and contaminated water lawsuits.

If you got sick with Shigella in this Westin Bonaventure Hotel Shigella Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help. Our Record-Breaking food safety lawyer can help you pursue compensation for you or your child’s Shigella infection. Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.