A shigella outbreak? What does THAT mean?

I recently received an email concerning a small outbreak of Shigella here in Montgomery County, OH. So I want to share with you what this means for you and your family, and what you should be watching for in your children over the next few weeks.

First of all take a deep breath; this is not nearly as alarming as it sounds!!!

What is it?

Shigella is a family of bacteria that cause diarrhea in humans (and apes). These bacteria are very contagious and spread from person to person through stool, or contact with stool. Symptoms typically begin within a few days after being exposed to someone with the illness. The illness will typically last about a week, with complete resolution in about 2-4 weeks.

What are the symptoms?

Once infected your child may have loose, watery diarrhea, fevers, and upset tummy for about a week. Keeping them hydrated and comfortable is the goal. Give your child plenty of water. Other good sources of food for hydration are fruits and soups. If your child doesn’t want to eat solid foods for a couple of days then that is okay, give them lots to drink.

Should I go to the doctor? When should I worry?

Most cases of Shigella are mild and can be treated at home.

You will want to contain this child and limit contact with others, practice excellent hand hygiene with plenty of hand washing, and wash towels and bed clothes/ underclothes in hot water.

If your child is not drinking or making enough urine (goal is 5-6 wet diapers/day), if your child has bloody stools, or fevers that are running above 102.5F then you will want them seen by their doctor. In more severe cases there is simply too much stool output to keep the child hydrated orally. Watch your child closely for signs of dehydration. Lack of urine output is a key sign! The more severe cases of Shigella can cause bloody stools, seizures, or dehydration. These are not as common.

When can my child return to school/daycare?

Once fevers have been gone for 24 hours without medicine and the stool output has normalized. Some children may experience temporary lactose intolerance after having an infection of their intestines, provide them with soy milk or lactose free milk for a couple of weeks and this should resolve as well.

Stay safe and wash your hands!!!

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