Lots of handwashing key against shigellosis-Philadelphia news

February 6, 2009 3:39:59 PM PST
The very contagious stomach infection often starts with kids in daycare or pre-school, but swith just a few germs, can spread to other kids, to adults, and can infect whole families.

So city doctors have sent out a health alert., reminding everyone about prevention.

As a lunch-helper at the Caring Center, 4-year-old Coltrane McRae knows cleanliness is vital.

She told us, "You have to wash your hands before you have lunch."

That's also one of the messages from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Dr. Esther Chernak says throughout the community, they've seen a jump in the number of shigellosis cases.

Dr. Chernak says, "Normally we would see in a 5-month period of time, 10 or so cases but in fact in the past 5 months, we've had 200 cases reported to us."

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection. It's spread through poor handwashing after using the bathroom.

The main symptoms of the disease are diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

The illness is usually found in childcare centers, which is why Sherilynn Kimble, executive director of the Caring Center on Spring Garden Street, says they stress frequent and thorough handwashing.

Signs are everywhere, reminding kids and adults that hands are to be washed BEFORE entering a classroom. Children are also taught to wash to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

Handwashing is the most important prevention tool.

Another is to keep kids out of school or daycare if they're sick. As for adults, they need to skip work when they are sick.

Kimble told us, "They need some time to rest, get themselves better again and then they can come back."

Dr. Chernak says shigellosis will resolve on its own, but it is important to get diagnosed, so extra precautions can be taken to prevent the bacteria from spreading.

"We would recommend people see their doctor for diarrhea that lasts more than a couple days, is bloody or associated with a fever or other severe symptoms," she told Action News.

For young children, it's important to call your doctor sooner if he or she is having severe symptoms, and could be getting dehydrated

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