Shigella Outbreak Hits The United States

Shigella, a painful drug-resistant food poisoning, has now hit the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the pathogen is arriving in America via visitors to the country. Late last year, U.S. Border Control agents also warned that a host of diseases were present in the tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children and adults who walked across the border from Mexico.

The Shigella virus occurs when the bacteria infects the intestines and causes bloody or “mucus-laced” diarrhea, rectal pain, and vomiting. Shigella outbreaks have occurred in multiple regions in America during the past year, according to the CDC. Approximately 250 people have been stricken with the virus, with about 20 percent of the patients requiring hospitalization.

Each year, approximately half-a-million Americans contract “regular shigellosis” annually.

“If rates of resistance become this high, in more places, we’ll have very few options left for treating Shigella with antibiotics by mouth. Then doctors will have to resort to IV antibiotics.” said epidemiologist Anna Bowen, who led a recent Shigella study. “As few as 10 germs [Shigella] can cause an infection. That’s much less than some other diarrhea-causing germs.”

The Cipro-resistant strain of Shigella presented in 32 states, with large “clusters” of the virus being found in California. Bowen’s team was reportedly able to track the infections to “international travel.” Some of the patients were traced back to the Dominican Republic, India, and Morocco.

In “many” of the Shigella outbreaks in the United States, patients had not traveled outside of America, leading Bowen to believe the drug-resistant virus had begun to “circulate” in some states.

“This outbreak really highlights that multidrug-resistance in other countries is also a problem for the U.S.,” Bowen said.

Shigella cases have also reportedly continued to grow in the months since Bowen’s team published their study. She noted that in most cases, the virus will go away on its own in about one week. In rare cases, Shigella can reportedly cause blood infections or even death. Approximately 100 million people become afflicted with Shigella around the world each year — about 600,000 die from the drug-resistant virus.

Being vigilant with hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the contraction of Shigella, according to Bowen’s team. Taking over-the-counter diarrhea remedies is also reportedly helpful in the mild to moderate cases of the drug-resistant virus. The germ is routinely spread when an infected person touches others or prepares food for them, according to Temple University School of Medicine professor Bennett Lorber.

Those most at risk for contracting Shigella include children, caregivers in day-care centers, and the sites of frequent diaper changes.

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