A Shigella outbreak that has sickened at least 167 people in Dubuque County, Iowa. The outbreak began in October 2015, but officials have just released information about it. The Dubuque County Health Department, the Dubuque County Board of Health, and the Iowa Department of Public Health are all investigating the outbreak.
Shigellosis is the illness caused by this pathogenic bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhea that may be painful, bloody or full of mucous, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. The bacteria is very contagious and is easy spread through food and drink, and person-to-person. The illness usually begins one to three days after exposure to the bacteria. Some people may have GI problems for several months after this illness. Shigellosis can develop into reactive arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome, or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in rare cases.
People usually recover from shigellosis within four to seven days. But if the illness is severe or the person develops dehydration because of copious diarrhea, they may need to be hospitalized. The very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems or chronic health problems are more likely to experience complications with this illness.
Public health officials have not said what has caused this outbreak. It could be anything from contaminated food or beverages, or a person with the illness who prepared or served food to the public. The bacteria is spread through the fecal-oral route. In the past, outbreaks have been caused by infected food workers, feces or sewage in farm fields, and flies. Contaminated swimming pools have also been the source of Shigella outbreaks.
To prevent further spread of this outbreak, always wash your hands with soap and warm water for no less than 15 seconds after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, and after caring for someone who is sick, especially with a diarrheal illness. Wash your hands well before, during, and after preparing food and before preparing food for others. If you are sick with a diarrheal illness, stay home from school, work, child care, and especially if you work in a food preparation or serving field.
Any food handlers, health care workers, and people working in the child care industry who have been diagnosed with this illness should have two consecutive negative stool cultures before returning to work. Children who have had this illness should have one negative stool culture before returning to a child care facility or school. If you have questions about this outbreak or about the illness, call Dubuque County Infection Control Specialists at 563-556-6200 or the Iowa Department of Public Health at 515-242-5935.