August 2, 2005
UMPQUA — Health officials are investigating an outbreak of a bacterial infection in the Umpqua area.
Seven of the attendees at Lighthouse Center Oregon, a private spiritual retreat center on Tyee Road, were confirmed to have shigella, according to a Douglas County Health and Social Services Department press release. Others may also be ill.
About 1,300 people were registered for the three-week event, with 750 to 800 people at the center at one time.
The county health department and State Health Division are investigating the sources, and steps have been taken to prevent further exposure.
“There is no reason for the general public to be concerned,” said Dawnelle Marshall, Community Health Division director for the county.
The source of the outbreak is unknown. The bacteria is transmitted through contamination of food or water with human feces, or from direct exposure to human waste.
Symptoms include moderate to severe diarrhea that may be bloody, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Symptoms may persist for three to five days or more if untreated, though medical treatment can sometimes shorten the duration. Even after symptoms disappear, some infected people will continue to shed the bacteria in their stool for several weeks or months.
Shigella spreads easily within households and child-care facilities where there are diaper-age children.
The only way to prevent the infection is to always wash hands well with warm water and soap after using the toilet, changing diapers and before preparing food.
By law, people with shigella may not attend child care or work as food handlers until stool exams show the infection has cleared.