Shigellosis Infections On the Rise Among Homeless People In San Francisco; Prevention Through Good Hygiene Practices

The year 2014 packed quite a punch for the health department, with Ebola threatening to become pandemic, bird flu scare on the periphery, listeriosis outbreak in many states of U.S; it is now shigellosis which is currently on the rise and a source of dread.

Shigellosis is an infection of the intestines caused by Shigella dysenteriae, which produces diarrhea, lasting for a few days which may proceed to bloody diarrhea in some people. Abdominal cramping with nausea and vomiting are also not a rare occurrence when the disease is severe. Fever is also present.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, there has been a rise in the highly contagious bacterial illness in the past few weeks most commonly among the homeless people. The department reported that within the month of December, from the 1st till the 23rd, there have been around 65 cases reported. The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 14,000 people within the United States get shigellosis each year.

Although, the recovery rate pretty good and the disease is not acutely fatal, there are still tragic deaths due to severe dehydration and seizures. There disease is potentially lethal among children and older adults or people who are immune compromised, like those suffering from AIDS.

The disease is particularly common amongst homeless people because of poor sanitary conditions and because of overcrowding. It can be contracted through the food and water contaminated by fecal material of an infected person. This particularly worrisome where children are concerned because children tend to put their hands in mouth more often and are more susceptible to the disease than adults. Therefore people working in daycare centers, where diapers are frequently changed should follow the preventive guidelines, which include keeping good hygiene through frequent hand washing and avoiding preparing and cooking food in order to limit the transmission of the bacteria.

The city health officer Dr. Tomas Aragon says, “We are working closely with homeless service providers to ensure that this community is reached”.

Those who have contracted the disease should try and stay hydrated with electrolyte fluids to replenish the body pool which becomes depleted due to diarrhea.


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