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Dramatic Increase in Reported Cases


Madison WI - September 18, 2008 - Since July 1, 2008, there have been 52 cases of Shigella infection reported to Public Health - Madison & Dane County. This compares to 7 reported cases during the same time period last year.

Shigella, (Shigellosis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria by the same name. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. The illness usually resolves in 5 to 7 days.

Most Shigella infections are the result of the bacteria passing from improperly washed hands of one person to the mouth of another person, often through handling contaminated objects or food. Poor handwashing and hygiene (especially after changing diapers or toileting), as well as some sex practices, can increase the risk of infection. Shigella infection is particularly likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained. Family members and playmates of such children are at high risk of becoming infected.

The Shigella bacteria pass from one infected person to the next very quickly in households and group settings such as day care centers and food service. The bacteria are present in the diarrheal stools of infected persons while they are sick and for up to a week or two afterwards.

The Dane County cases reported since July 1 range in age from 3 months to 63 years. Some are associated with site-specific outbreaks at daycare centers or schools, but many have had no contact with such sites or children at these sites and have no identifiable source.

In addition to the 52 reported cases, numerous people who have had contacts with those infected have also become ill but these illnesses have not been confirmed by laboratory testing.

Health care providers are required to report Shigella cases to Public Health, which follows up on each case to help minimize the possibility of spreading the infection to friends, family and other contacts.

We encourage people showing these symptoms to see their health care provider and get tested for Shigella. This is particularly important for people working in food service, childcare or personal/health care.

Children with symptoms who attend a daycare center where there have been confirmed Shigella cases will be required to be tested before returning to daycare. Food workers and personal/health care workers diagnosed with Shigella may also be required to undergo further testing.

The best way to control Shigella is by good handwashing. Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom or changing diapers and before eating. People diagnosed with Shigella should be especially vigilant in their handwashing practices.

Cooperation by those affected makes a big difference in controlling the spread of this troublesome infection in our community.



  • Amanda Kita-Yarbro, (608) 243-0336
  • Jeff Golden, (608) 243-0302