Contagious diarrhea increases in Cleveland children

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Department of Public Health issued an advisory Friday about an increase in cases of Shigellosis, a highly contagious diarrhea caused by Shigella bacteria. It's especially prevalent among day care children.

"In 2012, compared to 2013, we've basically seen our cases more than double in this population," said Jana Rush, the department's chief epidemiologist.

Shigella spreads from person to person contact, so poor hand hygiene is the most common way to get it. Others have gotten it from eating contaminated food and vegetables.

Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, said Dr. Reema Gulati, pediatric gastroenterologist at Metrohealth Medical Center.

"It can become life-threatening," she said. "The younger the child, it can cause other problems. The bacteria can spread into the bloodstream. In younger kids less than two years old, it can cause seizures. It can cause altered mental status, arthritis. So it can spread throughout the body."

Gulati said anyone with symptoms of Shigella should get medical treatment immediately.

Meanwhile, the best prevention against Shigella is hand washing, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers and before preparing foods or beverages.

Other precautionary measures recommended by the health department include:

  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly.
  • Disinfect diaper-changing areas after using them.
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of childcare settings.
  • Sick children and adults should  stay home until cleared by your doctor to return to school or work.
  • Supervise hand washing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea.
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

For more information on Shigellosis go to clevelandhealth.org.

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