What you need to know about shigella infection

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — About 80 have fallen ill with shigella after eating at a South Bay restaurant over the weekend, health officials say.

The health department is currently investigating Mariscos San Juan restaurant in San Jose to find the source of the shigella outbreak, but it is suspected that is that the disease was spread by an infected food handler.

“We urge anyone who is ill to seek medical care and to take steps to not spread the infection further. Meticulous hand washing by those who are sick is critical,” county health officer and public health director Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHIGELLA

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Shigella infection is an intestinal disease caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella. The main sign of shigella infection is diarrhea, which often is bloody.”

Shigella can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool. 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 also can be passed in contaminated food or by drinking or swimming in contaminated water.

Children between the ages of 2 and 4 are most likely to get shigella infection. A mild case usually clears up on its own within a week. When treatment is needed, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics.

Symptoms may start a day or two after contact with shigella, but may take up to a week to develop. Symptoms to watch for include: Diarrhea (often containing blood or mucus), severe abdominal pain or cramps, and fever of 101 fahrenheit or higher.

“Although some people have no symptoms after they’ve been infected with shigella, their feces may still be contagious up to a few weeks,” the clinic says on its website.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor or seek urgent care if you or your child has bloody diarrhea or diarrhea severe enough to cause weight loss and dehydration. Also, contact your doctor if you or your child has diarrhea and a fever of 101 F (38 C) or higher.

Prevention

“Although the World Health Organization has been working on a shigella vaccine, nothing is available yet,” staff at the Mayo Clinic said.

To prevent the spread of shigella

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Supervise small children when they wash their hands
  • Dispose of 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
  • Avoid sexual activity with anyone who has diarrhea or who recently recovered from diarrhea

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