Shigellosis has been getting attention online, but no cases have been reported in the Quad Cities. What is it and is it something people need to worry about here? Janet Hill, Chief Operating Officer at the Rock Island County Health Department has the answers.

“It is a bacteria that causes severe and bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach pain and even the feeling that you need to go to the bathroom even when your bowels are empty. It lasts about five to seven days. It must be confirmed by a lab, by a lab test and it is a nationally notifiable disease so that’s why the CDC is sounding the alarms because there are increased cases throughout the country.” Currently there are no active cases of shigellosis in Rock Island County. It must be diagnosed by a lab test. It’s distinguishable from ordinary diarrhea because it includes fever, bloody or prolonged diarrhea, severe stomach cramping or tenderness and dehydration.

This isn’t a new bacteria, but the Centers for Disease Control has announced that some cases are showing resistance to antibiotics. “Most cases do not require antibiotics to be treated, usually it’s just waiting it out and it could be five to seven days of pretty miserable conditions,” said Hill. “This particular strain is showing some antibiotic resistance, which is just another reminder that when you are prescribed an antibiotic, it’s really important to take it as directed for the full time that your medical provider has said. That’s one of the reasons why we have antibiotic resistant microbes, because people don’t use antibiotics correctly.”

Even though shigellosis hasn’t reached the Quad Cities, there’s still time to prevent it or at least mitigate its effects, says Hill. “This is a pretty common public health guidance, we should wash our hands. If you are a person caring for a young child (children under 4), and they are particularly susceptible to getting this condition, if they have diarrhea and fever and get stomach aches, contact the doctor to find out if it’s shigellosis. You should always be washing your hands before and after changing a dirty diaper. You should wash your hands before preparing food. Do not prepare food if you are ill, do not share your food with anyone if you are ill. If the child is ill, they must stay home from school or daycare.”

Hill says other common sense advice will prevent infection, including not swallowing water while swimming, not touching your mouth or eyes and washing hands for at least 20 seconds. “Just go back to what we did at the beginning of COVID when everyone was really good at washing their hands and just remember those routines that you got yourself into and just carry them into your everyday life. A lot of viruses and bacteria will die in soap and water. Hand sanitizer is a good backup, but soap and water really are your best line of defense.”

The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body, says Hill. “If your diarrhea lasts longer than usual or if it’s bloody or accompanied with severe stomach cramping, get to the doctor to determine whether it’s a run-of-the-mill norovirus or if it’s shigellosis. Shigellosis is much more severe and it’s a nationally notifiable disease so the CDC will want to track that.”

For more information on shigellosis, click here. For more information on shigellosis in children, click here.