Many cases of the highly-contagious Shigella are being reported in and around the Lakewood area, doctors say.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Shigella infection (shigellosis) is an intestinal infection caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella. The main sign of shigella infection is diarrhea, which often is bloody.
Shigella is very contagious. People get infected with shigella when they come in contact with and swallow small amounts of bacteria from the stool of a person who is infected with shigella. For example, this can happen in a child care setting when staff members don’t wash their hands well enough after changing diapers or helping toddlers with toilet training. Shigella bacteria can also be passed in infected food or by drinking or swimming in unsafe water.
Children under age 5 are most likely to get shigella infection, but it can occur at any age. A mild case usually clears up on its own within a week. When treatment is needed, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics.
Signs and symptoms of shigella infection usually begin a day or two after contact with shigella. But it may take up to a week to develop. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Diarrhea (often containing blood or mucus)
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms generally last for about five to seven days. In some cases, symptoms may last longer. Some people have no symptoms after they’ve been infected with shigella. However, their feces may still be contagious up to a few weeks.
In Lakewood, several schools reported as many as 10 students in a single class were home sick with the illness.
Although researchers continue to work to develop a shigella vaccine, nothing is available yet. To prevent the spread of shigella:
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently
- Watch small children when they wash their hands
- Throw away soiled diapers properly
- Disinfect diaper-changing areas after use
- Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea
- Keep children with diarrhea home from child care, play groups or school
- Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes or untreated pools.
- Don’t go swimming until you have fully recovered.
Read more about the illness on Mayo Clinic.