Shigellosis Outbreak Continues to Grow in Vanderburgh Co.

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

Denise Cory with the Vanderburgh County Health Department says all the cases of shigellosis are linked to a daycare facility, but she won't say which one. Someone introduced the bacteria into the center and made more than a dozen people sick.

"The attack rate is up to 40 percent of the household contacts or the people around them will also get sick with it," says Cory. "So it's very infectious. You only need ten bacteria to make you sick."

The bacteria is spread via the fecal-oral route. That means it stays on someone's hands after a bathroom break and pretty soon, everything that person touches becomes infected long enough for you to come by and pick it up. So, good handwashing is the best defense.

And don't be in a hurry. The State Department of Health recommends you stand in front of the sink for twenty seconds. To get little kids to remember how long that is, have them sing a song. Happy Birthday will work, the Alphabet song or even the first verse of Old McDonald Had a Farm.

Over the counter anti-diarrheal drugs only prolong the disease. As much as pediatricians discourage the overuse of antibiotics, they won't hesitate to write a prescription for shigellosis.

"Antibiotics work," says Dr. Tim Corba. "They decrease the duration of the diarrhea. It decreases some of the complications that we see on rare occasions and it also allows them to go back to daycare sooner."

Children can go back as long as they've been asymptomatic for five days. Daycare, health care workers and food preparers have to have a full course of antibiotics and then wait for two negative stool samples to come back from the lab before they're allowed to go back to work.