The patient count in an outbreak of infections from Shigella continues to increase in Yakima County, WA.

As of Oct. 18 public health officials had confirmed 72 people with infections since the first of this year. That’s compared to 10 cases at this time in 2022.

The source of the bacteria has not yet been found. Health officials are asking that anyone who has symptoms of Shigella infection seek medical attention and ask for specific testing because the symptoms can mimic other illnesses.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention symptoms include diarrhea that can be bloody or lasts longer than three days. Some patients also experience fever, stomach pains, or feeling the need to pass stool even when the bowels are empty. Symptoms may start one to two days after infection and can last seven days.

Shigella spreads from person to person and from contaminated surfaces or foods and beverages. A small amount of the microscopic bacteria is enough to cause severe illness. People can become infected by swallowing the bacteria through touching contaminated surfaces then touching the mouth, or by eating food prepared by someone with an infection.

“Shigella spreads easily from person to person and with 72 cases in Yakima County so far this year it is an important reminder to be vigilant and utilize preventative measures,” Yakima CountyDirector of Disease Control Melissa Sixberry said.

“As upcoming holidays and gatherings take place, remember to always wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick when holiday gatherings take place, remember to always wash your hands, and stay home.”

Good hygiene practices can help limit the spread of Shigella infections. Such  practices include washing hands often and thoroughly, especially before eating and after using the restroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or serving food. People should clean and sanitize work areas frequently and avoiding preparing or sharing food when they have symptoms of infection.