Kathy Mogel, Program Coordinator for the Onondaga County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there are 69 cases of “confirmed or probable” Shigella infections in that county. The cause of the infections is still not known.
Shigella is a bacteria that causes symptoms of diarrhea that is often bloody, fever, and stomach cramps. Children under the age of 2 can develop a severe infection with a high fever that causes seizures. One of the problems with this bacteria is that infected people may have no symptoms at all but can pass the bacteria to others. In fact, person-to-person contact and cross-contamination are the main ways this bacteria is transmitted.
Public health officials say that anyone with diarrhea should not prepare or handle food or drink served to others. It’s important to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a child’s diapers. Most people with shigellosis recover completely, but it can take months for the diarrhea to go away. About 2% of Shigella patients develop post-infectious arthritis, which can last for years. Symptoms of this complication include pain in the joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.
Shigella infections are acquired from eating food contaminated with water that contains feces, or flies that breed in infected feces and then contaminate food. It can also be acquired by drinking, swimming in, or playing with contaminated water. Every year, about 14,000 Americans contract shigellosis, but it is very common in developing countries.