BY JANNETTE PIPPIN
DAILY NEWS STAFF
MOREHEAD CITY – The Carteret County Health Department has begun an intensive public campaign on preventing shigellosis following three reported cases of the highly contagious bacterial infection.
“Because it is transmitted so easily and so quickly, we want to let everyone know so there is heightened awareness of the symptoms,” said Carteret County Health Department health educator Mary Fournier.
The most common symptom of shigellosis, a gastrointestinal illness, is diarrhea accompanied by fever, nausea, and sometimes vomiting and abdominal cramps. There may also be blood or mucus in a person’s stool.
Usually, shigella bacteria are spread when someone fails to properly wash his or her hands after using the restroom and then touches other objects and people.
Three positive cases have been confirmed in Carteret County – two children and one adult. Other individuals have been tested but those results are still pending, the health department said.
Carteret County has not had an outbreak of shigellosis since 1993, when there were 288 positive cases reported. The highest number of cases since then has been eight in 2001.
“We want to intervene quickly to stop further spread ‚?¶,” said Laura, a communicable disease nurse. “We want our kids and families to stay healthy for the holidays ahead.”
Public health workers and schools nurses are distributing information on shigellosis in schools and day care centers. County physicians and the medical community have also been made aware of the appearance of shigellosis.
Along with information on prevention, confidential surveys were distributed in classrooms. They ask parents if their children have experienced symptoms during the past two weeks. The surveys will help the health department determine if there may be other possible cases.
The spread of shigellosis is frequently from child to child, particularly among toddlers, preschoolers, and early school-aged children who play closely together and don’t always have the best toilet habits.
But while it’s easy to spread the bacteria, prevention is easy, too. Health department officials say hand-washing after each visit to the bathroom, before eating and after coming in from playing is the best way to stop the spread of shigella.
Hand-washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or more is recommended. Wash all surfaces, including backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
“Proper and frequent hand washing is the key to preventing the spread of shigellosis,” said Debbie Dempsey-Kelly, another communicable disease nurse at the health department.
For more information about shigellosis, or to inquire about testing, individuals should contact their physician or call the Carteret County Health Department at (252) 728-8550.
Contact staff writer Jannette Pippin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (252) 808-2275.