Shigella is a highly contagious disease. It is an infection of the gut caused by bacteria. Recently, Winneshiek County had two (2) confirmed cases in area school children.

Symptoms of shigella include: mild to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, headache, and painful bloody, mucous stools. Diarrhea may appear 12 hours to 4 days after infection. It is possible for some infected persons to not have any symptoms.

The incubation period can vary from 12-96 hours, but is usually about 24-72 hours. It can be up to a week. It takes only a small dose of Shigella bacteria to cause infection so is very easily spread.

It is very easily spread by close contact with an infected person or eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. In the summer, it may a potential problem if a wading pool hasn’t been drained after an infected child (diapered one) uses it. Once one person in the family is ill it is common for other family members to become ill. Anyone can get shigella.

People with diarrhea should not go to school, childcare, or work. If you work in a position of food handling or caring for persons in one of these settings or in health care, you need to stay home from work until the diarrhea is gone.

Once infected with Shigella and a positive stool culture is confirmed, a person will need to have two (2) negative cultures. This is especially true if one works in food preparation or with children before returning to that work area. If having any diarrhea, you should NOT do any food preparation for others. Stool cultures are used for confirmation of the disease.

People usually recover without treatment. If severe diarrhea occurs, especially small children and elderly persons should see a doctor. Dehydration may be a complication of continued diarrhea.

It is important to practice good hand washing with soap and water each time, and should be done before eating, after toileting, after changing diapers, and before any food preparation. Hand washing with soap and warm water for no less than 15 seconds by paying attention to be sure that you wash front and back of hands and between fingers, and around and underneath fingernails as well is what is recommended. Singing to the “happy birthday” or “ABC song” while washing hands helps to be certain washing long enough.

Cleansing of commonly shared surfaces such as bathroom facilities, doorknobs, table or desktops need to be done routinely. You may clean the environment with household disinfectant or bleach and water solution (one quarter cup bleach per gallon of water, mixed fresh daily).

It is imperative that persons educate families and other workers if this disease is in your home, childcare, school, or work. Public Health will be involved if there is a confirmed case to investigate whether the case could be a source of infection for others and thus be able to prevent further transmission of this disease. It also is important to have this reported so that possible food sources of transmission are identified and proper care implemented.

Anyone with the above symptoms, particularly diarrhea, should be contacting their family physician. If a stool culture is obtained, specimens are sent for testing. Results are usually available in 3-4 days after the lab receives the specimen. If positive, then Public Health does receive notification of positive cultures. For further questions, contact your healthcare provider or Winneshiek County Public Health at 563-382-4662.

Additional information is located from the CDC at or on the Iowa State Department of Public Health at .