Increase in fecal-related bacteria reported in IRC

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — An increase of a highly-contagious, fecal-related bacteria has moved health officials to remind residents to do a thorough job of washing their hands.

At least 20 cases of shigellosis have been reported this year for Indian River County, Florida Department of Health Environmental Manager Cheryl Dunn said. Shigellosis is caused by a group of bacteria called shigella, which can cause fever, watery or bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps.

“This is more than we’ve seen in previous years,” Dunn said. “The last time we had a high prevalence was in 2012.”

The symptoms from shigella usually take place within four days of infection, health officials said. Most people recover by the seventh day.

A shigella infection can occur from eating or swallowing something contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person, health officials said. Some people can be infected, not have symptoms and still pass the bacteria to others.

Health officials said it is crucial for residents to properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom, changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. The health department is working closely with schools, child care facilities and the medical community to provide them with prevention and control information.

“Hand washing is extremely important in controlling the spread of shigellosis as well as many other illnesses. If you have diarrhea, you should stay home from school or work until 48 hours after symptoms stop,” said Miranda Hawker, Florida Department of Health in Indian River County Administrator.

How you can prevent the spread of shigellosis in IRC

  • Wash hands after bathroom visits, diaper changes, play time and before preparing food
    and eating.
  • Hand washing among children should be frequent and supervised by an adult, especially when children are not fully toilet-trained.
  • Clean and disinfect bathrooms, diaper changing areas and toys regularly.
  • People with diarrhea should stay home from school or work until 48 hours after their symptoms stop
  • People with diarrhea should not prepare food or drinks for others.
  • See your physician if your symptoms worsen. Those who want more information can contact the FDOH in Indian River County at 772-794-7440.

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