The Okaloosa County Health Department is reporting an increase in cases of Shigella. So far this year, 49 lab confirmed and probable cases have been reported. The county usually averages 3 cases of Shigella a year.
The health department has been working with child care centers, community health care providers, living facilities, and the Department of Children and Families to implement prevention and control measures. The Shigella bacteria is very contagious and spreads easily person-to-person. People contract Shigella bacteria by eating or drinking something that has the feces of an infected person. This bacteria usually appears in a cyclical pattern. Peaks of the illness in Florida occurred in 2002/2003 and in 2006/2007. There was an increase in 2011, and the increase this year may indicate another transmission cycle.
The disease is usually mild and most people get better on their own within four to seven days. It takes 1 to 3 days after infection for symptoms to begin. Symptoms of Shigella infection include diarrhea, which may be watery and bloody, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever. Some people do not have any symptoms, and can spread the infection without realizing it.
To prevent further spread of this infection, everyone with diarrhea should stay home from work or school for at least one 24 hour period after the symptoms end. Anyone with diarrhea should not prepare food or beverages for others, or serve food or beverages to others. Thorough hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of the illness. Wash hands after visiting the bathroom, changing a diaper, handing pets, and before and during food preparation and eating.
To wash hands thoroughly, use soap and warm water. Lather hands for at least 20 seconds, and pay attention to the area between fingers, under the fingernails, around the wrists, and on the palms. Bathrooms and diaper changing areas should be routinely disinfected.