Ingham County reports increase in Shigella cases

Heidi Burkhardt has a two-year-old and a three-year-old. She knows it can be hard to keep them away from germs.

"What we do is just wash hands, and I try to teach them to not touch your eyes, touch your nose, not put your hands in your mouth, try not to slobber on each other," Burkhardt said. That's why she was worried when she heard Shigellosis is going around.

"Concerned definitely, there's some things that you do your best to prevent, but you can't prevent everything," Burkhardt said. The Ingham County Health Department says it has found eight confirmed cases of the illness and is testing dozens more. Shigellosis usually clears up in five to seven days without treatment.

"It's a food borne illness, it's not completely uncommon, although there seems to be kind of a cluster of illnesses, we're not the only ones seeing them right now," Linda Vail, Ingham County Health Officer, said.

Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of the bacteria that causes Shigellosis, especially after using the bathroom if you are sick or changing diapers.

"It usually is a matter of hygiene and not being able to stay home or people not paying attention to that whole stay home when you're sick thing, that tends to just kind of spread the illness," Vail said.

It's mostly school-age children getting sick, Vail said. The symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

"Fluids, rest, staying at home, those sorts of things, if you have severe symptoms of dehydration, from the vomiting and the diarrhea then that would be the time to seek medical attention," Vail said. She also says to see a doctor anytime you find blood in your stool.

Otherwise, though, Vail says you don't really need to see a doctor for Shigellosis. 

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Ingham County is reporting an increase in the number of Shigella cases in recent weeks. The health department has confirmed 8 cases and has around 30 more under investigation. The county normally gets 8 cases in an entire year. The county says so far none of the patients have required hospitalization and all are recovering without complication.

Shigella is a bacteria that causes Shegellosis. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Some patients will have blood in their stool. The infection is highly contagious. Symptoms usually pass within a week. Some patients may need an antibiotic. The bacteria lives on surfaces for several weeks. It can be killed with disinfectants.

The increase has the county warning people thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom, changing a child's diaper and before preparing food. Hand sanitizer is helpful but is not a substitute for soap and water. Anyone who develops Shigellosis needs to be symptom-free for at least 48 hours before returning to work, school or daycare.