Health department warns daycares, schools of spreading shigelossis infection

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-13 19:25:43-04

MILWAUKEE -- A new alert today from the Milwaukee Health Department about an infection spreading rapidly among young children.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health describes the infection called Shigellosis as a bacterial infection that causes abdominal cramping, fever, and diarrhea. The symptoms last from one to seven days.

"You spread [shigellosis] by touching other individuals, or it can be spread through surfaces like desktops, computer keyboards, and sharing beverages," Paul Biedrzycki, Director of Disease Control for the Milwaukee Health Department, tells TODAY'S TMJ4. "This happens in child care settings. This can happen in certain health care settings where toileting and diapering occur."

Biedrzycki adds that Shigellosis first appears in stools and fecal matter, but the bacteria itself is invisible. It can be spread easily without proper hygiene and then transfer through food, beverage, and even swimming pools.

"There are signs all over pools saying kids should toilet and wash their hands before they get in the pool," Biedrzycki asserts. "And kids with disposable diapers shouldn't be in the swimming pool."

So far in 2016, the health department reports confirmed cases in 36 Milwaukee schools and 26 daycare centers. To date, officials tally 162 cases, far exceeding the total in 2015 (112). The number of cases this year is also expected to surpass that of 2014 (188), which would make this the worst year for Shigellosis since 2007 (556).

Biedrzycki explains that proper hygiene and restroom etiquette are by far the best ways to prevent the spread of the bacteria; anyone who is infected can be treated with antibiotics, but should consult with their physician.