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DSHS Issues Precautions to Control Shigellosis

News Release
May 20, 2008

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is urging residents of Zavala and Dimmit counties to take precautions to control the spread of shigellosis, a diarrheal illness.

“There has been a higher than usual number of cases of this illness at Lorenzo de Zavala and Thomas Rivera elementary schools,” said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, DSHS regional medical director, San Antonio. Twenty cases have been confirmed since May 5, including four people who were hospitalized temporarily for dehydration.

“The best way to prevent the spread of shigellosis is by washing your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds, especially after visits to the restroom, before preparing or serving food or drinks and after changing a diaper,” Guerra-Cantu said. “Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly, especially if they are to be eaten raw.”

Shigellosis, which is caused by the Shigella bacteria, is passed person to person by a fecal-oral route. Infection can occur by hand-to-mouth contact with stools from a sick person, eating contaminated foods or drinking contaminated water.

The infection ranges in severity from a relatively mild illness with watery stools for a few days to severe symptoms including cramps, headache, high fever, profuse or bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Those infected usually recover in five to seven days, but some people may need to be hospitalized. Infected people may be contagious for up to four weeks after the diarrhea stops.  

Those with shigellosis or other diarrheal illnesses should not attend school or child-care centers or work in food-handling establishments. If your child has diarrhea, take the child to the doctor as soon as possible. Request a test for Shigella. Follow your doctor's instructions. Keep your child home from school or child care until he or she has finished antibiotic treatment or until 48 hours after diarrhea has stopped. If the sick child is a student, notify the school nurse.

The incubation period, or time between exposure and the development of symptoms, for shigellosis ranges from one to seven days and is typically one to three days.

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(News Media: For more information contact Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, at 512-458-7400.)

Last updated November 22, 2010