Shigellosis: Understanding the Threat in Spokane
Shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery, is an intestinal infection caused by the Shigella bacteria. It’s highly contagious and can lead to severe diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and bloody stools. Recent outbreaks in Spokane have highlighted the importance of awareness and prevention strategies.
What is Shigella?
Shigella is a genus of bacteria that invade the intestinal lining, causing inflammation and discomfort. There are four main species of Shigella:
- Shigella sonnei
- Shigella flexneri
- Shigella dysenteriae
- Shigella boydii
S. sonnei is the most common type found in the United States, including Spokane.
Transmission and Symptoms
Shigella spreads readily through person-to-person contact, especially in places with poor sanitation and hygiene. The primary mode of transmission is:
- Fecal-oral route: This occurs when someone ingests Shigella bacteria from contaminated food, water, or surfaces. This can happen directly, like through unwashed hands after changing a diaper, or indirectly, like eating food prepared by someone who is infected.
Shigellosis symptoms typically appear 1-2 days after exposure and can last for several days to weeks. Common symptoms include:
- Diarrhea, which may be bloody or watery
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
In severe cases, Shigellosis can lead to serious complications, including:
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS): This can affect the kidneys and bloodstream and is especially dangerous for young children.
- Reactive arthritis: This can cause joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Bloodstream infections
Outbreaks in Spokane
Spokane has seen several Shigellosis outbreaks in recent years, with the most recent occurring in 2023. These outbreaks serve as a reminder of the importance of taking preventive measures to avoid infection.
Protecting Yourself from Shigella
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from Shigellosis:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, changing a diaper, and before handling food.
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat and poultry.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
- Avoid drinking contaminated water.
- Practice safe hygiene, such as staying home when sick and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with Shigella, such as diaper changing areas and toilets.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you experience symptoms of Shigellosis, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications. Your doctor will likely perform a stool test to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe medication, such as antibiotics, to treat the infection.
For the latest information on Shigellosis outbreaks and prevention tips, you can stay informed by following resources from the Spokane Regional Health District:
- Website: https://www.srhd.org/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpokaneCountyWA/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/publichealthsth?lang=en
- Phone: (509) 324-1500
Remember, prevention is key to protecting yourself from Shigellosis. By taking simple steps like washing your hands frequently and practicing good hygiene, you can help keep yourself and your community healthy.