Shigella Infections on Rise in San Diego County Health Officials Warn

What to Know

  • Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella
  • Shigella germs can be spread via surfaces contaminated with germs from the stool of a sick person, such as toys or bathroom fixtures.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent shigellosis. However, you can reduce your chance of getting it.

Health officials in San Diego County are warning residents about the potential of contracting the intestinal disease shigellosis.

San Diego County had more reported shigella infections or shigellosis last year than in the last two decades. 

There were 334 cases reported in 2017. So far this year, county officials have received reports of 97 cases. 

“Shigellosis is a very contagious disease, but there are many steps people can take to reduce their chances of getting it,” Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer said in a county news release.

The official advisory from the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency was directed primarily at gay and bisexual men, homeless individuals and people with compromised immune systems. 

Of the cases reported this year, 25 percent involved gay or bisexual men, according to county officials. Homeless people accounted for 7 percent of the cases.

Symptoms include diarrhea which may be bloody, fever, stomach pain and the feeling to pass stool even when the bowels are empty, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The infection can be prevented by conducting frequent and thorough hand washing; disinfecting any areas that may be contaminated, such as restrooms or diaper changing areas; avoiding swallowing water from untreated pools and ponds, and not preparing or serving food to others when having diarrhea.”

The CDC warned last month of an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant shigella infections. 

In those cases, the infection may be harder to treat and may linger longer, increasing the chance for the bacteria to spread. 

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