April 27, 2006
The Brunswick News (Ga.)
The Glynn County school system is warning parents of pre-kindergarten children at the Family and Children’s Education Services center to be on the lookout for symptoms of shigellosis, an infectious disease that’s treatable with antibiotics.
Students carried letters home with them Wednesday from the school advising parents that there have been reported cases of shigellosis at FACES.
Health officials said there have been at least two confirmed cases.
Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Shigella. It is caused by contaminated food, water or improper hand washing.
FACES Principal Sue Williamson said the center has had 200 absences since March, but noted that it’s not uncommon for her students to miss school this time of year. She added that many of the absences were unrelated to shigellosis.
“You have to remember that we’re dealing with little children and this time of year they can be out for a variety of reasons,” she said.
Some 320 students ages 3 to 5 attend FACES at the program’s building at First and Norwich streets, Brunswick.
Annette Neu, infectious disease coordinator of the Coastal Health District, has been working with FACES staff members to determine the cause of the cases of diarrhea, a symptom commonly associated with shigellosis.
“In day-cares with young children, this sort of thing really isn’t uncommon,” Neu said. “The most important thing to do is emphasize good handwashing.”
Neu said although the original source of the outbreak is unknown, she said one child might have picked up the Shigella bacterium somewhere, possibly outside of the school, and spread it among other students due to ineffective handwashing.
Williamson emphasized that good handwashing is taught continuously throughout the year, but it’s impossible to monitor children all the time.
“The nurse comes around at the beginning of the school year and teaches them how to do it and it’s really reinforced throughout the year,” she said.
Neu added that although only two of the FACES diarrhea cases have been confirmed as shigellosis, clinical testing is ongoing.
“Two cases certainly don’t make an outbreak, but it does warrant an investigation,” she said.
Representatives of the Brunswick hospital of Southeast Georgia Health System believe the diarrhea problems being experienced at FACES are contained.
“We haven’t seen any more cases than usual for this time of year,” said Michelle Morris, director of Ambulatory Practice Management.