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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

September 27, 2002

Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department is alerting area child daycare centers after an unusually high number of Shigellosis cases have been reported.  In the last two months, 35 cases of Shigellosis have been recorded -- approximately half of which involve child daycare centers.  Doctors' offices, emergency rooms and urgent care centers are also being advised to look for signs and symptoms of Shigellosis. 

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.  The bacteria are present in the stools of infected people and are spread via the fecal-oral route when proper hand washing techniques aren't followed.  It is particularly likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained.  Children can also catch this infection by putting toys or their fingers into their mouths.  Washing hands thoroughly can prevent the spread of Shigellosis, particularly after changing diapers or using the bathroom. 

Shigellosis symptoms may include stomach pain, loose stools, vomiting, nausea, upset stomach and fever.  A laboratory test on the stool of an infected person is used to determine if Shigella is the cause of an illness.  It is most often treated with specific antibiotics. 

It is the Mecklenburg County Health Department's policy that children or employees in daycare, patient care or food handling jobs be removed from that setting if they are infected with Shigella.  Children or adults who test positive for Shigella will not be allowed back into daycare or work until two consecutive stool cultures, taken 24 hours apart and 48 hours after completion of antibiotic treatment, test negative for the bacteria. 

Letters from the Health Department explaining Shigellosis, how it's spread, and its relationship to proper hygiene have been sent to all Mecklenburg County child daycare facilities.   Nurse epidemiologists are also visiting daycares linked to current and recent cases.  

To prevent the spread of Shigellosis:

·          Children and adults must stay home from daycare, food handling jobs, and patient care jobs if experiencing diarrhea.

·          Supervise hand washing of toddlers and small children after assisting them with toileting or diaper changing.

·          Wash hands frequently and vigorously with soap and warm water, especially after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, eating or preparing food or drinks.

·          Dispose of soiled diapers properly.

·          Disinfect diaper-changing areas after each use.

·          Keep children with diarrhea out of daycare settings.

·          Persons with diarrheal illnesses should not prepare food or drinks for others. 

For more information, contact the Mecklenburg County Health Department's Communicable Disease Control Program at 704-336-3477 or 704-336-4671.

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