Health Alert: ADH warns of Shigella outbreak

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Department of Health is alerting citizens statewide of a recent spike in Shigella.

Shigella is a bacterial infection, similar to Salmonella and E. coli, that causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

It is most commonly passed on from people who do not properly wash their hands or fruits and vegetables.

Shigella takes about one to four days before a person shows symptoms, making places like nursing homes and day cares its biggest target. 

"You can have lots of people infected, lots of kids infected and not even know it," said Dr. Shane Speights with St. Bernards Medical Center. "This is one of those infections that we could really cut down on if people would just wash their hands. Just wash your hands and this won't get passed on."

Belinda Ciganek, the coordinator of KidSPOT in Jonesboro, said the day care has not seen any cases of Shigella because of its cleanliness crusade.

"We are constantly washing our hands," Ciganek said. "We wash hands before entering the classroom, after eating, after doing arts and crafts, any time they interact. We disinfect, wipe down toys probably every hour. Any time a child touches it, puts it to their mouth, we clean it." 

If someone would pass on the bacterial infection, a person could have diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps for five to ten days. Dr. Speights said to contact a physician if anyone is experiencing these symptoms.   

However, Dr. Speights said antibiotics usually will not help. The best way to treat Shigella is by drinking a lot of water and trying to eat. 

"Actually introducing foods sooner in the course of the infection can reduce the symptoms and bring you over the disease process quicker," Speights said.

Dr. Speights said avoid giving kids Gatorade, Powerade, juices or carbonated beverages.

If people display any of these symptoms, Dr. Speights and Ciganek ask them to stay home.

"You want to be at least 24 hours free of diarrhea to be considered noninfectious," Speights said. 

"Please don't bring them to daycare for 24 hours," Ciganek said. 

The health department sees most Shigella cases during the summer months.

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