According to the Miami Herald, an outbreak of the diarrhea-causing bacteria shigella two weeks before school starts has prompted the Broward County Health Department to call for preventive action from the public.

“Hopefully in this two-week period before school starts, we can prevent this from getting into the schools,” said Dr. John Livengood, the health department’s epidemiology chief.

Broward has seen 81 cases of the bacterial disease so far this year, almost twice the 43 cases seen at this point last year. The outbreak this summer centered on several day camps and a few child-care centers, mostly among school-age children, he said.

The number of shigellosis cases throughout Florida has increased as well, to 368 through June, compared with 277 from January through June of 2009, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Shigella spreads through person-to-person contact — generally fecal matter on the hands — and causes severe diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and bloody stools. Symptoms typically last three to five days.

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