There is a regional outbreak of shigella related illnesses throughout Stanly, Cabarrus, Rowan, Union, and Mecklenburg counties.  Cabarrus County has over 40 lab confirmed cases reported which is the highest number of reported cases in all these counties,” said Cindy Russell, Stanly County Health Department communicable disease nurse.

“We want to call your attention to this outbreak as many Stanly County residents participate in activities that cross county lines. As of this week, Stanly County has had two reported cases of shigella and one probable case.”

Shigella is a highly infectious disease. Most of those that are infected with shigella develop watery stools, fever and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria, according to the health department. The watery stools are often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in five to seven days.

Most shigella infections result when basic hygiene and handwashing practices are inadequate. The bacterium passes from stools or soiled fingers of one person to another person, according to the health department. It is particularly likely to occur with toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained. Family members and playmates of toddlers are at high risk of becoming infected.

Shigella infections may be acquired from eating contaminated food. Contaminated food usually looks and smells normal. Food may become contaminated by infected food handlers who forget to or improperly wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom.

Stanly County Health Department staff is consulting with staff from the surrounding county health departments as well as the State Division of Public Health.   Health department staff has alerted the schools, day care centers and health care providers as to the incidence of this infectious disease.  Staff members are also informing them how to prevent the spread of this as it is highly infectious.