2/4/05- The Jackson County Health Department is investigating an outbreak of Shigella. More than half a dozen people in Jackson County have the highly contagious intestinal illness,prompting health officials to issue an alert.
The Jackson County Health Department announced there are 7 confirmed cases and other suspected cases of the intestinal illness in the county. As most may remember, Shigella recently made headlines in Ingham County after dozens of students there became ill. Jackson County Health Department officials tell us they’ve received some sporadic reports of intestinal illness over the past month, b ut noticed it was reaching outbreak proportions.
Those suffering from the disease are reporting stomach cramping and tenderness, vomiting and diarrhea, b ut unlike the outbreak in Ingham County, the confirmed cases in Jackson County are not isolated to one area or age group.
Mary Ricciardello, Jackson Co. Health Dept.: ” It is spanning over several years, it’s not isolated in children or adults, we’re seeing it in both of those populations.”
Others are reporting similar symptoms.
Mary Ricciardello: “The most common symptoms are change in bowel habits.”
Because Shigella is spread through fecal-oral contact, health officials are stressing the importance of frequent hand washing,especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
Mary Ricciardello: “The main way that we can stop the transmission of this disease is by meticulous hand washing and personal hygiene techniques.”
Mary Ricciardello of the Jackson County Health Department says health officials are doing everything they can to determine where the disease started to stop it from spreading.
Mary Ricciardello: “That’s our main goal right now is to get out there and do contact interviews and surveillance.”
Ricciardello says as with any outbreak, the health department will also hold an emergency meeting,working with Foote Hospital’s infectious disease staff. Officials will try to contain the disease and educate the public.
Mary Ricciardello: “We’re also fielding many phone calls calming people’s fears and just trying to educate them as to how to protect their family members on how not to be come infected.”
As for the remaining suspected cases of Shigella, h ealth officials tell us they are running tests both in Jackson County and at the state’s health lab to confirm or rule out the disease. While Shigella is highly contagious, health officials say it is also treatable. That’s why they’re asking anyone who thinks they may have symptoms to call their doctor or the health department.
For more information, call the Jackson County Health Department communicable disease program at 517-788-4619.