Health department officials think outbreak of illness may be contained
January 22, 2006
STOCKTON – Cedar County Health Department officials think they may have contained an outbreak of shigellosis, an illness that causes diarrhea and can lead to severe dehydration.
In recent weeks officials confirmed 18 cases and seven probable cases of the disease, which is caused by the shigella family of bacteria, said Linda Mann, manager of community services. She has not seen any new cases reported in the past week, and credits the school system for helping educate parents and children on proper prevention methods ó handwashing with soap.
Shigella is passed from person to person. Most transfers occur when the bacteria passes from stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another, health officials say.
Symptoms include diarrhea that is sometimes bloody, fever and stomach cramps starting a day or two after being exposed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Otherwise healthy people recover within two days to one week. A laboratory test must be conducted to confirm a case, which can be treated with antibiotics.
Health officials have not found the source or sources of the outbreak, Mann said. “We do not believe it started in the schools; it seems more likely that it started with a relative visiting from the Kansas City area, but we have not pinpointed it for sure,” she added.
It does not appear that all 18 cases were related, Mann said. “People travel all over for the holidays, and with it starting over Thanksgiving, there wear a lot of family meals and people traveling to relatives’ (homes),” she said.
Springfield-Greene County Health Department usually sees 30 to 50 cases a year, but many cases are so mild or mimic other intestinal disorders that people don’t seek medical help, Director Kevin Gipson said in February 2005. That’s when the department investigated a cluster of eight positive or suspected cases.
There is one active case in Greene County now reported by a woman who believes she contracted the illness during a recent trip to South America, said health department epidemiologist J.D. Slaughter.
Mann said Cedar County didn’t see many cases in 2005 when many Missouri cities including Springfield, Harrisonville and Kansas City reported outbreaks.
“We were just lucky it didn’t hit us,” she added.
Anyone with possible shigellosis symptoms can contact their county health department or personal physician.