Due to the outbreak of Shigellosis reported last month which affected a total of 26 school-age children in the Mineral Wells Independent School District who had contracted the common bacterial infection, the Texas Department of State Health Services alerted parents to take precautions to protect against future outbreaks.
That number included cases reported at the school year’s end in May.
“If your child is in school or attends day care, they are more likely to acquire the bacteria,” said Christine Mann, TDSHS spokeswoman.
“The infection is transferred through hand-to-mouth contact with stool or feces. In a typical year, there are between 2,000 to 3,000 cases statewide with the majority of cases occurring in children and, although it is not usually life-threatening, it is a common, highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. A stool samples test confirms the identity of the bacteria. Shigellosis usually resolves in five to seven days.
“Persons with Shigellosis rarely require hospitalization, however, a severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than 2 years old,” reported Mann. “Antibiotics are not generally needed, but if symptoms become severe, parents should contact their physician immediately. If a child displays these symptoms, the CDC recommends keeping them home for 24 hours after symptoms have subsided. Some persons who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the Shigella bacteria to others.”
Some preventive measures recommended by the CDC to help lessen the chance of exposure to the bacteria which causes the illness include:
• Thoroughly washing hands before and after each diaper change.
• Disinfecting diaper changing areas and properly disposing of soiled diapers.
• After small children use the rest room, it is best to supervise them to be sure they are using proper hygiene.
• If a child exhibits the symptoms of diarrhea and fever, the child should not be taken to day care, they should be kept home.
• Preparation of food should never be done by anyone who is ill with diarrhea.
• Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes or untreated pools; ear and nose plugs are recommended for small children.