Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-373-2391

Shigella Remains Concern As New Cases Are Reported

The continued reporting of new Shigella cases in Marion County has local health officials expanding educational efforts to help reduce the number of new cases.

While the number of cases has not substantially climbed in the last month, there has not been a significant decrease in cases, either.

Health officials have reported 40 cases so far this month, compared to 2 in January of 2007. A majority of those becoming ill with Shigella are pre-school aged. However, local health officials have documented cases in all age ranges.

The expanded educational efforts include having two additional public health nurses assigned to Shigella case investigation and the production and dispensing of hand washing posters and hand washing coloring books to local schools, libraries and day care centers. Local schools and day care centers will also be receiving information on appropriate cleaning of bathroom and common use areas.

An advisory committee of local health care professionals is also being established to help assist the health department in determining and implementing best practices for reducing the number of cases and stopping the spread of Shigella.

Shigella is a common, highly contagious infection transmitted primarily from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. Outbreaks can occur in areas where large groups of people gather, including schools, nursing homes, day care centers and other similar settings. Shigella outbreaks can also be caused by contamination of food by infected food handlers, although that does not seem to be a factor in what local officials are seeing now.

The usual symptoms are diarrhea associated with cramping, abdominal pain, chills, a feeling of illness, headache and fever. The diarrhea often contains blood and mucus.

"If a person is infected and does not properly wash their hands, their hands may be contaminated by stool. They can then touch and contaminate common surfaces such as tables, toys and food prepared by them. Touching something contaminated from an infected person and infect anyone," Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director, Marion County Health Department.

For more information on Shigella, contact the health department at 221-2117.

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