LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Lincoln Trail District Health Department is warning that there has been an outbreak of Shigellosis in both Nelson County and Hardin County.

According to a news release from the department, there have been approximately 50 laboratory-confirmed cases of Shigellosis, caused by the Shigella bacteria, mostly in daycare-age children. 

"The people most at risk are under the age of five," said Donny Gill, the Lincoln Trail District Health Department public information officer. "Just because they don't practice sound hand-washing a lot of times. But it can infect anybody."

Gill said it spreads very quickly and can last five to seven days, if you don't seek medical intervention.

"It's not a very pleasant thought to think about," Gill said. "But it is primarily spread through fecal matter. So if somebody changes a diaper and then they touch a doorknob, somebody else comes in and touches that doorknob, you know -- it happens just like that."

Shigellosis is also spreads by contact with contaminated surfaces or liquid, like pool water.

"I know they make swimming diapers and everything like that," said Gill. "But if there's diarrhea in there, it gets into the pool water. The chemicals in the pool water do not kill it immediately.

"Water gets in the mouth, the nose, or the eyes. It's in the next person's body. Again, that's how it spreads so easily. So if your children are sick and they have diarrhea, please do not take them to the pool."

The health department is asking for the public's help to prevent the spread of the illness. Individuals can help by adhering to the following recommendations, taken from the news release:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the restroom, before preparing food, before eating and after changing diapers.
  • If you or your family member have diarrhea, contact your primary care provider. A lab test can be performed on a stool specimen and can determine if you or your family member have Shigella. Antibiotics treatment can be ordered.
  • If you or your child has diarrhea, do not go to school, sports events, community events, church, scouts, etc. Stay at home. 
  • If you have Shigella, you must not attend daycare or school until two negative stool specimens are obtained at least 24 hours apart and at least 48 hours after finishing antibiotics.
  • Proof of negative laboratory results must be given to childcare providers and schools before returning.
  • If someone is sick in your home with shigellosis, clean faucets, door knobs and any other hard surface that can be frequently touched with a bleach solution made from the instructions on the product label. Frequent cleaning is needed, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • If you have diarrhea, do not prepare food for anyone until 24 hours after the last symptom.  

"This is a very teachable moment for our little ones in the day cares," Gill said. "As far as proper hand washing -- warm water, soap, and twenty to thirty seconds. They can sing their ABC's with it. That's the perfect length of time."

Facilities -- such as schools, churches and businesses -- and help fight the spread of Shigellosis by adhering to these recommendations, also provided by the health department:

  • Post hand washing signs in restrooms, cart and food areas.
  • Clean restrooms several times a day with bleach solution made from the instructions on the product label. Pay particular attention to faucets, door knobs and any other surface that can be frequently touched.
  • Provide paper towels in restrooms for drying hands, turning off faucets, and touching doorknobs. Provide soap at all hand sinks. Do not dilute soap unless the manufactures label specifically instructs you to do so. Assure that paper towels are readily available and that soap dispensers are always filled when facilities are open.
  • Do not use water fountains or clean multiple times a day.
  • Assure that everyone is washing hands before eating.
  • Do not allow self-serving of food in food service areas.
  • Exclude staff with diarrhea from work. Food service workers must report positive laboratory results of Shigella or known exposure to Shigella to their employers. Food service establishments are required to report positive cases of Shigella in food service workers to the local environmental office of the health department.
  • Another way that Shigella can be spread, particularly during the summer months, is by exposure through swimming pools and spas. Anyone who has experienced diarrhea recently should not be using your pool or spa until completely well, as individuals can be contagious for several weeks after symptoms have subsided. 
  • If someone infected with Shigella has an accident in the pool, the bacteria can infect others if exposure occurs before the bacteria are killed by the chemicals in the pool. This happens either by getting bacteria on the hands and then putting the hands in your mouth or swallowing infected pool water.
  • Young children are of special concern because of the increased number of Shigella cases associated with child care centers. In addition, young children are more prone to have fecal accidents in the pool and tend to have inadequate hygiene habits. Furthermore, the use of plastic diaper pants or diapers designed for use in water, commonly called "swimmies," cannot guarantee that some fecal matter will not escape into the pool water.  

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