Genesee County is seeing an increase in Shigella, bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness which includes mild to severe diarrhea, the Genesee County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.
The uptick may be partly due to the reluctance of Flint area residents to use lead-contaminated water for washing or bathing, despite assurances from health officials that even unfiltered water is safe for these purposes.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported earlier this month 85 Genesee County shigellosis cases this year compared with 20 cases reported in the county in 2015 and four cases in 2014.
Shigella is spread from person-to-person through a fecal-oral route. That means the bacteria leaves an infected person’s body in the stool and are spread by contaminated hands, surfaces, food, or water.
The spread of Shigella bacteria can be stopped by practicing good hand hygiene. Proper hand washing takes at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, including cleaning under the fingernails. This should be done after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Using hand sanitizer is not enough. Those who are experiencing diarrhea should not handle food for others until they are found to be clear of the bacteria.
Watch for symptoms in children and other family members. If symptoms occur, consult your primary care physician or health care provider. Children and adults who are ill should stay home until all of their symptoms are gone and stools are normal for at least 48 hours.
For more information regarding Shigella or other gastrointestinal illnesses, visit the Genesee County Health Department website at www.gchd.us or call the Genesee County Health Department at (810) 257-1017.