Written by The Herald-News
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has recently received several reports of diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Shigella.
The majority of cases have been reported in the southeastern region of Montana including: Yellowstone, Rosebud and Big Horn County; however, individual cases were reported in Lewis & Clark, Lincoln and Roosevelt County as well.
To date, 13 confirmed cases of shigellosis have been reported in Montana, eight of those were reported in the month of July.
During a non-outbreak year, about 11 cases of shigellosis are reported in Montana.
Of the 12 cases associated with this cluster, ages range from four to 63 years with a median of 16 years. About 50 percent of the cases are less than 18 years old and 50 percent are between 20 and 63 years old.
Shigellosis is more common in younger children due to compromised hand washing hygiene and close person-to-person contact.
Shigella sonnei is generally found in humans and most likely transmitted via fecal-oral route with an incubation period of one to three days.
Contaminated food and water can also be a source of infection.
Asymptomatic carriers are common with this disease.
Signs and symptoms include diarrhea (watery or bloody), fever and stomach cramps. Shigellosis can lasts about four to seven days and is usually self-limiting. However, this disease can cause dehydration, seizures (especially in children) and renal failure.
Epidemiologic investigations are in progress, but have not lead to any conclusions. The relatively large number of cases tied to the geographic proximity of many of the cases is of concern. According to CDC, if enough people become ill, it becomes extremely difficult to control the spread of the disease. Shigellosis outbreaks can get out of hand very quickly. Be alert and help us prevent the problem before it arises.
What can be done to prevent the spread of shigellosis?
Shigella bacteria are passed in feces. The single most important prevention activity is thorough hand washing after using the toilet.
Additional control measures include:
•wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
•dispose of soiled diapers properly.
•disinfect diaper changing areas after using them.
•keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
•supervise hand washing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
•persons with diarrheal illness should not prepare food for others.
•persons in sensitive occupations (e.g. food handlers, patient care) should be excluded from work until two negative stool samples are obtained 24 hours apart.
Be aware of shigellosis in your area, know how to prevent it and educate others of the importance of good hand washing skills! Help us prevent the spread of this disease and keep your community healthy.
For additional questions, contact your local public health department or visit CDC.gov and search for “shigellosis”.