The Billings Outpost

Shigella infections on rise in Yellowstone County

RiverStone Health

RiverStone Health officials have identified an increase in Shigella infections in Yellowstone County. To date, five cases have been confirmed and an additional two cases are pending confirmation. Three individuals required hospitalization.

In a typical year, Yellowstone County may report only one or two cases. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reports eight additional confirmed cases in the state. Montana usually sees 11 cases of shigellosis annually. 

Symptoms of Shigella infection include diarrhea, often bloody, fever and stomach cramps and may appear 12 to 96 hours after exposure to the bacteria. However, some infected people may not show any symptoms. The infection usually resolves in four to seven days and hospitalization is rarely required.  

“Five reported cases of Shigella infection may not seem large, but we estimate that for every reported case, the actual number of cases could be 20 times greater,” said John Felton, president and chief executive officer of RiverStone Health and Yellowstone County health officer. 

Shigella bacteria is found in the stool of infected people and passed on to others via the fecal–oral route or by eating or drinking contaminated products. People who are infected with Shigella bacteria should not prepare food or beverages until they have had no diarrhea for at least two days. Infected individuals working in food/beverage service, patient care or child care, should not go to work until they have been symptom-free for two days. In addition, children who have been infected should not attend any daycare facility or school until they have been symptom-free for two days. 

Shigella infection is most likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet trained and for this reason, special precaution should be taken to ensure that diapers are disposed of in a closed-lid garbage can, the changing area is wiped down with a diluted bleach solution or other disinfectant and that those changing diapers wash their hands and the child’s hands with soap and warm water after changing the diapers. 

Shigella infections can be prevented by:

• Washing hands with soap and warm water carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.

• Disposing of soiled diapers properly.

• Disinfecting diaper changing areas after using them.

• Keeping children with diarrhea out of child care settings.

• Supervising hand-washing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.

• Not preparing food for others while ill with diarrhea.

• Avoiding swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

“The number of reported shigellosis cases is a concern and outbreaks can quickly get out of hand,” said Felton. “To aid our efforts in controlling the spread of disease, it is extremely important to follow good hand hygiene practices as well as to teach and assist young children with proper hand-washing techniques.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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