Outbreak of contagious illness in Jefferson County - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Outbreak of contagious illness in Jefferson County

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41)----In the last few months health officials say they've noticed the increase in Shigellosis.

A letter went out to all schools on Wednesday from the health department and will soon alert parents of the outbreak in Louisville.

On November 30th, a notice from Louisville Metro Public Health & Wellness said the health department had received reports of Shigellosis, a diarrhea illness caused by Shigella bacteria, which is highly contagious.

"Unfortunately, this is something that is transmitted fecally orally. So, since kids aren't paying as much attention to hygiene sometimes, or parents who are taking care of kids who have a diarrhea illness, that can be a challenge," says Dr. Paul Schulz, Medical Director of Infection Prevention with Norton Healthcare.

Fast-forward to this week and now a JCPS spokesperson says the health department has asked all schools to send out a notice to students about an outbreak of Shigellosis in Jefferson County.

JCPS spokesperson, Lauren Roberts, says they are sending the letters out because they've been asked to, and not as a result of any particular case in the school.

The health department has averaged 62 cases a year of the illnesses for the last five years.

However, in the last 3 months, they say they've already seen 60 cases.

"Technically we would call this an epidemic and try to do things to reduce that spread, like putting out these kinds of notices so that parents, teachers and other folks in the community are more aware," says Dr. Paul Schulz.

The symptoms include blood in stools, fever, nausea, abdominal cramping and vomiting.

One of the ways they say you can prevent the spread of the disease is to wash your hands carefully, and often. They say it's especially important to wash your hands after changing diapers, using the restroom, after helping a child use the restroom, or before preparing or eating food.

Dr. Paul Schulz, with Norton Healthcare, also recommends not going to school or work if you have the illness to avoid spreading it to other people.

Going to the doctor is at the top of the list. 

"Even if you don't feel like you're that ill, getting evaluated and diagnosed and treated can be a good thing for you and the community," says Dr. Paul Schulz.

There are antibiotics that doctors can prescribe to help you treat this illness.

The Health Department wants everyone to be aware, and take precautions.

In 1995, health officials say an outbreak of Shigellosis led to more than 1,000 people getting sick.

Copyright 2011 WDRB News.  All Rights Reserved.

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