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December 11, 1999

20 Sickened, 5 Hospitalized in Shigellosis Outbreak in Kansas

Topeka, KS (SafetyAlerts) - According to reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), investigations are underway into recent outbreaks of the bacterial infection, shigellosis in two counties, along with other possible cases in Kansas.

The outbreaks have occurred in Cherokee and Pratt Counties and has resulted in 20 culture-confirmed cases of shigellosis within the last two months.  Five of those cases resulted in hospitalization. Other suspect cases are being investigated in both counties.

Most of the cases recently observed in Kansas involve young children. The infection is sometimes then passed on to adults who come into contact with them, such as workers in daycares, pre-schools and grade schools. This has been the case in Cherokee and Pratt Counties, where most of the infections reported have involved children, but some adults have become infected as well.

"Shigellosis is most often spread when people do not adequately wash their hands after they go to the bathroom " said Dr. Tim Monroe, Deputy State Epidemiologist. "These people can then transmit the disease directly to other individuals or they can contaminate food or water."

"Sometimes young children, especially toddlers, get their hands dirty with feces after they go to the bathroom, and because they tend to put their hands in their mouths and interact similarly with other toddlers, shigellosis spreads," Monroe stated.

Symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea, sometimes involving blood, as well as fever, nausea, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Its incubation period is 12 to 96 hours, but could be up to a week.

Anyone who works with food preparation or patient care and has culture-confirmed shigellosis should not continue their work until two negative cultures are obtained at least 24 hours apart, and no sooner than 48 hours following discontinuation of antibiotics. Those with symptoms of suggestive of shigellosis (such as diarrhea, especially if bloody) should refrain from handling food or caring for patients until they are without symptoms. Children with diarrhea should be removed from daycare and school until their diarrhea stops.

The best prevention of shigellosis is to carefully wash hands with soap and water, especially after restroom use and diaper changing, and before food preparation and eating. "It is as simple as that," Monroe added. "Just wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before you touch any food! Children in particular need to have this message reinforced and they may need supervision from an adult to assure that they wash their hands correctly."

Selected Recent Recalls

Health Professional:

Did you know?
During 2000 there were over
1050 products recalled in the United
States for safety reasons!

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