Shigellosis is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. It is an infection of the intestines by a bacterium called Shigella. Shigella is characterized by diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucous), fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. The average time between exposure and symptoms is one to three days. The Illness typically lasts from four to seven days. Most people with shigellosis recover with rest and drinking plenty of fluids, however, some people require hospitalization for treatment of dehydration and supportive care.
Shigella is shed in the stools of persons infected with the bacteria. Shigella can be spread by direct or indirect fecal-oral contact. People who have shigellosis and do not wash their hands after they use the bathroom can contaminate objects (toys, food, water, etc.), which others then put into their mouths. Shigella is also transmitted through contaminated food and water. Shigella is very infectious; it can take as few as ten bacteria to cause disease. Shigella can be shed in stool for as long as four weeks after the onset of symptoms. High-risk groups such as food handlers, persons who provide care for children or the elderly, or persons who provide direct patient care should not work if they have diarrhea.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health investigates reports of shigellosis. County health department public health nurses perform rapid investigations of all reported cases. For each case, they determine risk factors for disease acquisition and spread. Measures to control transmission include identification of symptomatic contacts and exclusion of persons from high-risk settings while diarrhea is present.
What can be done to prevent shigellosis?
- The most important way to prevent the spread of Shigella is thorough hand washing with warm water and soap. People should be especially careful to wash their hands after diapering a child, going to the bathroom, and before eating, or preparing food.
- Day care providers should supervise hand washing of all children that are wearing diapers or are not completely toilet-trained.
- Do not allow children to attend day care with diarrhea.