Shigella Infection

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How common is shigellosis?

Every year, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be twenty times greater. Shigellosis is particularly common and causes recurrent problems in settings where hygiene is poor and can sometimes sweep through entire communities. It is more common in summer than winter. Children, especially toddlers aged 2 to 4, are the most likely to get shigellosis. Many cases are related to the spread of illness in child-care settings, and many are the result of the spread of the illness in families with small children.

In the developing world, shigellosis is far more common and is present in most communities most of the time.

What else can be done to prevent shigellosis?

It is important for the public health department to know about cases of shigellosis. It is important for clinical laboratories to send isolates of Shigella to the City, County or State Public Health Laboratory so the specific type can be determined. If many cases occur at the same time, it may mean that a restaurant, food or water supply has a problem that needs correction by the public health department. If a number of cases occur in a day-care center, the public health department may need to coordinate efforts to improve handwashing among the staff, children, and their families. When a community-wide outbreak occurs, a community-wide approach to promote handwashing and basic hygiene among children can stop the outbreak. Improvements in worker hygiene during vegetable and fruit picking and packing may prevent shigellosis caused by contaminated produce.

Some prevention measures in place in most communities help to prevent shigellosis. Making municipal water supplies safe and treating sewage are highly effective prevention measures that have been in place for many years.

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