Shigella Questions & Answers

What is Shigella? What are the symptoms?

Shigella is a bacteria that can cause a diarrheal disease called shigellosis. Symptoms usually start 1–2 days after exposure. Symptoms include: diarrhea (which can be bloody), fever and abdominal pain. In people with healthy immune systems, symptoms usually last about 5 to 7 days and they usually recover completely, although it may be months before their bowel habits are entirely normal.

How contagious is Shigella?

It is extremely contagious. Because it is so contagious, a person with Shigella could infect a close contact like a family member. Shigella is spread by the fecal-oral route, meaning that if a person who is ill with Shigella doesn’t carefully wash their hands after using the bathroom, he or she can spread infection by touching food or water that is then swallowed by another person. While Shigella is a rare disease, Santa Clara County has cases reported every year. For example, an average of 57 cases were reported each year between 2010 and 2014, with a range of 38 – 81 cases.

How dangerous is it? Who is most at risk?

Shigella can be very serious and in rare cases, it can be fatal. Those most at risk for severe illness are the very young, very old, and people with compromised immune systems. But anyone with severe diarrhea and/or vomiting can get severely dehydrated, may faint or go into shock if their body loses fluid quickly. Also, this disease can move very fast. Some people may need to go to the hospital within hours of when their symptoms start.

What has happened in Santa Clara County?

As of 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 26, 2015, the number of outbreak-associated cases of Shigella reported to Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) now stands at 188; 150 of these cases are Santa Clara County residents and 38 reported cases are people who live in other counties. Of the 188 total cases, 85 are lab confirmed; 65 of which are Santa Clara County residents. There are 20 confirmed cases from other jurisdictions, including the counties of San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Marin and Merced. Nearly all of the cases have reported that they ate at Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant on Friday October 16th or Saturday October 17th.

What is the treatment for Shigella?

If a person has diarrhea caused by Shigella, it usually takes care of itself in 5 to 7 days. They only need fluids and rest. Pepto-Bismol® may be helpful but medications that cause the gut to slow down, such as loperamide (e.g., Imodium®) or diphenoxylate with atropine (e.g., Lomotil®), should not be taken.

Antibiotics are useful for severe cases of shigellosis because they can reduce the duration of symptoms. A person’s healthcare provider can determine if antibiotic treatment for shigellosis is required.

What is being done to ensure no one else gets sick?

The Public Health Department and Environmental Health Department are working very closely on this investigation. Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant was closed on Sunday morning (October 18) and will remain closed until further notice.

Disease investigators are interviewing and testing all food handlers (cooks, servers, etc.) at the restaurant. The owner and employees of Mariscos San Juan #3 are cooperating with the investigation. Public Health is also following up on all reported cases of illness. Healthcare providers in the region have been notified to suspect Shigella in ill persons with symptoms if they, or someone they are in contact with, ate at Mariscos on Friday October 16th or Saturday October 17th.

Food facility owners and managers are being asked to be diligent about discussing proper employee hygiene and ensuring sick workers stay home, as appropriate.

What should people do if they ate at Mariscos and suspect they might be ill?

If a person ate at the restaurant on Friday October 16th or Saturday October 17th and has diarrhea, they should contact their healthcare provider.