December 3, 2016

New Mexico Warns of Increase in Shigella Illnesses

The New Mexico Department of Health is warning people that there is an increase of shigellosis cases in that state. Most of the cases are in Lea and Eddy County. At least 36 people have been identified in this outbreak; most were children associated with child care centers and their family members.

Shigella bacteria

Shigellosis is a bacterial disease with symptoms of fever, nausea, diarrhea that may be bloody, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Some people may develop toxemia as a complication from this infection, which is blood poisoning caused by toxins produced by the pathogenic bacteria. People usually get sick within one to seven days after exposure to Shigella. This bacteria is very contagious.

The shigella bacteria are found in feces of an infected person. People get sick when they ingest a tiny amount of stool that is contaminated. Young children are most likely to contract this illness because they put their hands in their mouths. A person is contagious as long as the bacteria are in their feces, which can be up to four months.

New Mexico Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher said in the press release, “if your child is sick, please do not take him/her to daycare. This will only spread this illness to other children and their families. If you think that your child may have shigella, please take your child to their healthcare provider to be tested.”

The spread of this illness can be reduced by washing your hands frequently, especially before preparing or serving food, after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or caring for someone who has a diarrheal illness. Supervise children’s hand washing after they use the bathroom. Clean contaminated surfaces with bleach-based household cleaners. Wash soiled clothing and linens promptly. And do not send children to school or daycare if they have diarrhea that is persistent.

Most people recover on their own after this illness. Antibiotics can decrease the contagious period of a Shigella illness. Every year, there are about 500,000 case of shigellosis in the U.S. And strains of Shigella bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are becoming more common.

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