ST. JOSEPH COUNTY – It's sweeping through local daycares and schools.
But the St. Joe County Health Department says there are things you can do to help keep your kids healthy from an outbreak of Shigella.
Shigella is basically a nasty stomach bug.
Clay Intermediate, Harrison Primary, Jackson Intermediate, Lincoln Primary, Tarkington Traditional and Wilson Primary schools all have confirmed cases of Shigella, and if your kids go there, you should already have a letter from the school explaining exactly what it is and how to keep it from spreading.
So far, we know of three impacted daycares – Growing Kids on State Road 23 near Douglas, Louise's Child Care on Western Avenue and Children's Garden in South Bend.
Christiane Buessard is the mother of a toddler and had not heard about the stomach bacteria until WSBT approached her on Wednesday.
“I want to know more,” Buessard said. “I would like to have some information about what do we have to do to prevent and to avoid getting it, if possible.”
“To be very blunt about it, it’s called ‘stool-to-mouth’ transmission,” explained St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Felger. “People will go to the bathroom. They don’t wash their hands. A very small amount of the bacteria can be left on a faucet handle, a door handle, and then someone else touches it.”
Felger says Shigella first surfaced in St. Joseph County late last month. So far, the Health Department has confirmed 25 cases of Shigella but has been in contact with more than 70 people. The only way to diagnose it is in a laboratory.
“We thought we actually had it under control,” Felger added. “We went about a week without any positive samples. It is something people can get more upset about than they should. Our goal is to make them aware of what’s happening and what can be done individually but not to get people worried about it.”
Felger says Shigella affects people differently. Some, for example, become so ill they have to be hospitalized. Others have a nasty case of vomiting diarrhea. And still others can carry the bacteria without any symptoms.
The first confirmed case showed up in a local daycare last month. But those children often have older brothers and sisters or neighbors, easily spreading the bacteria in to the schools.
One big way to help prevent the spread of Shigella is practicing good hygiene.
You and your kids should wash your hands as much as possible, especially after using the bathroom, and if you are sick, stay home. Don’t spread it to other people at work, school or daycare.
The health department says you should only go back if you've been cleared by a lab test.
Since this is a bacteria, antibiotics are effective in treating it. but if you don't get medicine, Dr. Felger says you can be contagious for two weeks.