Parents of children who attend Roberts Elementary School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, received letters this week regarding a Shigella outbreak at the school.  At least 14 people have become ill with shigellosis since the outbreak began, and parents were warned of the symptoms of Shigella infection and were asked to keep kids home from school and daycare if they exhibit symptoms of the illness. 

According to the Fond du Lac Reporter, all cases reported so far involve children, their household contacts, or daycare and school staff. 

Symptoms of Shigellosis:

Most people who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Severity of the disease ranges from mild to very severe diarrhea. Diarrhea is bloody 25-50% of the time and most often contains mucus. Rectal spasms, medically termed "tenesmus," are common. The illness starts 12 hours to 6 days, usually 1-2 days, after exposure. Dehydration is also a common symptom of Shigella infection.

Shigellosis is more severe than other forms of gastroenteritis. This is because when Shigella bacteria multiply in the human gut they invade cells and result in much tissue destruction. Also, many strains produce a toxin called "shiga toxin" which is very potent and destructive. Shiga toxin is very similar to the verotoxin of E. coli O157:H7.

Complications of shigellosis include severe dehydration, seizures in small children, rectal bleeding, and invasion of the blood stream by the bacterium.  In addition, up to 3% of persons who are infected with Shigella may later develop a syndrome that includes joint pain and swelling, irritation of the eyes, and sometimes painful urination. This is a reaction to the previous gastroenteritis and is called “reactive arthritis” or Reiter’s Syndrome.