Flint, Michigan: Shigellosis Outbreak Grips City, What Caused It?

Flint, Michigan has another outbreak to deal with. This time, it is a dangerous bacteria known as Shigellosis, reports CNN.

The Flint water crisis has been in the news for the last two years. High concentrations of lead in the water have caused people to be very distrustful of the natural resource. Due to the people of Flint’s mistrust, they are washing their hands less and bathing less. Jim Henry, Genesee County’s environmental health supervisor commented on people’s fear of the water in Flint.

“People aren’t bathing because they’re scared. Some people have mentioned that they’re not going to expose their children to the water again.”

Henry went on to comment about people using baby wipes instead of using water to clean themselves.

“But baby wipes are not effective, they’re not chlorinated, it doesn’t kill the bacteria and it doesn’t replace handwashing. People have changed their behavior regarding personal hygiene. They’re scared.”

“It’s very easy to transmit person to person, or through food. If people aren’t washing their hands, it runs through the whole county.”

Shigellosis thrives in areas where cleanliness is an issue. According to the CDC, Shigellosis is a disease caused by the Shigella bacteria. Symptoms of Shigellosis include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, abdominal pain, and tenesmus. Tenesmus is a painful feeling in the stomach where a person feels like they need to have a bowel movement. In normally healthy people, Shigellosis can last for up to a week. Since many infections and diseases can cause diarrhea, stool samples need to be analyzed in order to determine if the Shigella bacteria is present.

Since Shigellosis normally passes on its own, antibiotics are not normally given to patients who are infected. Many forms of the Shigella bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics anyway. If the case of Shigellosis is severe enough, a culture of the bacteria from a stool sample can assist doctors in finding which, if any, antibiotic would be most effective. Infected people may need to increase their fluid intake in order to make sure they do not get dehydrated.

Infected people may need to increase their fluid intake in order to make sure they do not get dehydrated. Over the counter anti-diarrhea medication should be avoided due to the type of impact they have on the function of the digestive system.

Due to Shigella only being found in a person’s stool, contact with fecal matter is the main route of transmission. Shigellosis is considered to be extremely contagious and even minute amounts of fecal matter can cause a person to be infected. One of the best ways to ensure a Shigellosis infection does not occur is for people to wash their hands after having a bowel movement. This is where the problem lies in Flint, Michigan since people are washing their hands far less than they used to.

The largest amount of Shigellosis cases in Michigan resides in Flint. Flint is located Genesee County. Bordering Genesee County is Saginaw County which has the second highest number of cases of Shigellosis in Michigan. So far this year, 84 cases of the infectious bacteria have been reported in Genesee County. Flint has 53 of those 84 cases. Twenty-seven of the cases were severe enough to require hospitalization.

The number of Shigellosis cases reached its peak in June of this year. The number of cases has risen since the Flint water crisis began.

The state of Michigan and the CDC are attempting to bring an end to the Shigellosis outbreak by starting a “wash your hands” campaign.


Jim Henry believes that officials at the state, initially, did not help to control or stop the spread of the bacteria. When Henry realized he had a large number of Shigellosis cases in his county, he contacted the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Henry states he was directed to “contact the CDC.” Henry did just that. Henry went on to comment about his dealing with the MDHHS.

“During the time that MDHHS refused to communicate with us regarding Shigellosis, we had several more cases, which MDHHS knew about because they are reported. However, for weeks the state MDHHS stopped communicating and assisting [the county] regarding all disease investigations, including Shigellosis. This action directly compromised the safety and health of our communities.”

A statement by the MDHHS in response to Henry’s accusations was given to CNN.

“It is entirely irresponsible… to attempt to portray MDHHS’s efforts regarding the Genesee County shigellosis situation as somehow lacking. MDHHS has been fully engaged in this effort.”

Who do you think is to blame for the Shigellosis outbreak in Flint, Michigan?

[Featured Image By Paul Sancya/AP Photo]