Pearl River County one of six seeing increase in Shigella cases

Published 10:37 pm Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Mississippi State Department of Health is keeping an eye on the number of Shigella cases found in the six coastal counties, including Pearl River County.

According to a release from MSDH, as of Oct. 23, there have been 103 cases in Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George Counties, compared to four cases as of Oct. 23 of last year.

While the majority of the cases have been found in Harrison and Hancock County, with 71 and 10 cases, respectively, the other counties also have seen a rise in the number of cases of the virus.

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“As of Oct. 23 of this year, there have been six cases in Pearl River County. As of the same time last year, there was only one case in Pearl River County,” said Elizabeth Grey, a MSDH spokesman.

According to the MSDH release, “Shigellosis is an infectious bacterial disease that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. It is passed from person to person when there is poor hand washing after a bowel movement or diaper change. Infection can then occur by hand to mouth contact or by eating food prepared by workers with contaminated hands.”

Grey said Shigella can sometimes be synonymous with what the average person may call a “stomach bug” because a lot of the symptoms are the same.

“Depending on the severity (of the virus), the symptoms could just go away on their own, or they could become so severe that hospitalization could be needed,” Grey said.

Grey said there is a test to determine if the symptoms are caused by Shigella or by some other cause.

“The best thing to do if you develop symptoms is go to your local Health Department or your local physician. They can test you there and provide medicines to treat the disease,” Grey said.

According to the release, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of Shigella is by handwashing.

“Handwashing is our frontline defense against shigellosis,” said Dr. Robert Travnicek, MSDH Health Officer for District IX. “Parents and children should wash their hands vigorously for 20 seconds with warm water and soap to prevent infection.”

According to the release, people should wash their hands with warm water and soap after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, before and after cooking and before eating.