Wednesday, October 12, 2005
By JEFF HAUERSPERGER, email@example.com
Saturday, October 8, 2005 6:49 AM CDT
MITCHELL , IN – An infectious disease that causes diarrhea has been reported in Mitchell.
The disease is called shigellosis and since it’s easily spread, county and school health officials decided to alert residents of its presence.
In a letter from Debbie Chastain, Mitchell Community Schools nurse, parents were told that three cases of shigellosis involving students was reported.
îAny child or staff member who has diarrhea should stay home and see your family physician or health care provider,ì Chastain said in the letter dated Oct. 3.
The three students who had the disease, which caused them some uncomfortable days late last month, have returned to classes following their successful treatment for the disease.
Notifying residents is the normal routine îif we have more than two cases of an unusual significant communicable illness at school,ì Dr. Alan Smith said in a memo.
Smith, like Chastain, warned that those experiencing diarrhea, vomiting or above normal temperatures should consult a physician.
Pat Bennett, county health nurse, said Friday afternoon that she hopes things are under control but that anyone who detects shigellosis should see a doctor.
îWe want residents to know what to look for. We want them to be aware of the signs and symptoms,ì she said.
She said shigellosis can sometimes be mistaken for the flu.
Bennett said while the disease only has been reported in students, adults are not exempt. In fact, some adults have come down with the same symptoms. Test results are still pending in those cases, she said.
Burris Elementary School Principal Steve Dorsett said if there’s a silver lining it’s that the disease gives them another opportunity to reinforce the importance of cleanliness.
îGetting the chance to tell students again about proper hygiene is a good thing,ì he said.
Hygiene is stressed because shigellosis is caused by the bacterium shigella. The disease is spread when the bacteria in feces or on soiled fingers is ingested.
This happens when basic hygiene and hand-washing habits are inadequate or when food is contaminated and then eaten, according to the health department.
Also, food may become contaminated by infected food handlers who do not wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom. Flies can breed in infected feces and then contaminate food.
Shigellosis can also result from drinking or swimming in contaminated water.
Even a little of the shigella bacteria can make you ill.
As of Friday, the source of the problem had not been determined.
Times-Mail Staff Writer Jeff Hauersperger welcomes comments at 277-7262 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the symptoms of shigellosis?
The symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps starting one or two days after you are exposed to the bacteria. Shigellosis usually lasts five to seven days. In some people, especially young children and older adults, the diarrhea can be so severe that hospitalization is needed.
How is shigellosis diagnosed?
Shigellosis is diagnosed by a physical exam. A stool culture confirms the diagnosis.
How is shigellosis treated?
People with mild infections usually need no treatment, aside from replacing lost fluids, and usually recover quickly. Antibiotics and intravenous fluids are used to treat severe cases. Appropriate treatment kills shigella bacteria and shortens the illness. Antidiarrheal medications may make the illness worse and should be avoided.
How can shigellosis be prevented?
Washing your hands frequently and carefully with soap, especially if you work or spend time in day care centers or with children who are not completely toilet trained can help prevent shigellosis.
People who have shigellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until they are free of the shigella bacteria.
Does shigellosis have any complications?
People with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal.