Rock-Island County is putting out word on how to prevent the spread of Shigella, a bacterium that causes dysentery and foodborne illness.  An article published in the Quad-City Times carried the health department’s message:

[Theresa] Foes, assistant administrator for the Rock Island County Health Department, said the virus is passed through the digestive tract. People should wash their hands with soap and water every two hours, and especially before they eat anything.

Rock Island County has 55 laboratory-confirmed cases in persons ages 2 months to 70 years, and the actual number of those infected is believed to be much higher.

There are three reported cases in Scott County, said Amy Thoreson, public information officer.

Simply touching a contaminated surface and then transferring that touch to the mouth will pass along the disease.

“Just imagine an infected person pumps gas. The next person to the station picks up the bacteria from the hose handle. Unknowingly, that person walks in the station, buys a treat and pays for the gas. They eat the food and get the shigella,” Foes said.

Measures for preventing Shigellosis include:

The spread of Shigella from an infected person can be stopped by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and water.11 The ill individual should practice this, as well as any contacts. Supervised hand washing of all children should be followed in day care centers and as soon as children return home.12 Young children with a Shigella infection, or with diarrhea of any cause, should not be in contact with uninfected children.

If a child in diapers has shigellosis, everyone who changes the child’s diapers should be sure the diapers are disposed of properly in a closed-lid garbage can, and should wash his or her hands carefully with soap and warm water immediately after changing the diapers. After use, the diaper changing area should be wiped down with disinfectant, such as household bleach or bactericidal wipes.

At swimming pools, maintaining a chlorine level of at least 0.5-PPM will kill Shigella. At swimming beaches, children not yet toilet trained should be excluded from public swimming areas; stay clear if this rule is broken. Children with diarrhea should never be taken to public swimming areas.

Basic food safety precautions will also help to prevent shigellosis. Shigella organisms are killed by heat used in cooking. People who have shigellosis or any diarrhea should not prepare food for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the bacterium.

Drink water only if it has been chlorinated (most tap water) or treated with ozone (most bottled water) and then you know it will not contain pathogenic bacteria. Consume only pasteurized dairy products.