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Poor hygiene causing diarrheal infection in Stanislaus County
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A rise in a bacterial infection that is causing residents to become ill, particularly with diarrhea is prompting Stanislaus County health officials to remind the community of basic hygiene habits.

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported the area is seeing an increase in the number of shigellosis cases. Shigellosis is a highly infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called shigella. Most infections are caused by the bacteria passing from improperly washed hands of one person to the mouth of another person, often through handling of contaminated objects or food.

So far this year the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency has confirmed 47 cases of the disease. A typical year sees about 10 cases, according to the health agency.

Poor hand washing and hygiene, especially after diaper changes or using the toilet, increases the risk of infection, according to the health agency.

“Regular and frequent hand washing with soap and running water is the single most important preventive measure to interrupt the spread of shigellosis,” said Dr. John Walker, the public health officer for Stanislaus County. “Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. People diagnosed with shigella infection should be especially vigilant in their hand washing practices.”

Those who are infected with Shigella will typically see symptoms begin in one to three days, but sometimes as long as seven days. Symptoms can include fever, stomach cramping, and mild to severe diarrhea, which might haves traces of blood or mucus in the stool. The sickness can last from one to four days.

Toddlers not yet fully toilet trained are particularly susceptible to shigella.

People experiencing diarrheal illnesses should stay home from child care, school, group activities, and should not participate in food preparation or healthcare until their diarrhea has resolved. People experiencing diarrhea for more than two days should see their healthcare provider and ask to be tested for shigella. Antibiotics can be prescribed as treatment.

Healthcare providers are required to report shigella infections to the county health department. This is done so follow up can be conducted and hopefully stop the spread of the infection.