Shigella is indeed a very frequent cause of foodborne illness.  It is estimated, in fact, that more than 17,000 people become infected by Shigella every year in the USA.  The routes of transmission are typically food and person-to-person contact, which is why Shigella is a frequent cause of outbreaks at daycare centers. 

What is Shigella? 

Shigella is a family of bacteria that can cause sudden and severe diarrhea (gastroenteritis) in humans. Shigellosis – the illness caused by the ingestion of Shigella bacteria – is also known as bacillary dysentery. It can occur after ingestion of fewer than 100 bacteria (American Public Health Association [APHA], 2000), making Shigella one of the most communicable and severe forms of the bacterial-induced diarrheas (Gomez et al., 2002). Shigella thrives in the human intestine and.

Past Shigella Outbreaks and Litigation:

  • Lombard, Illinois Subway Outbreak (2010): Last week, a shigella outbreak was discovered at a Lombard, Illinois Shigella.  On Friday, it was announced that four more cases of shigellosis were confirmed Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases caused by the outbreak at the restaurant to 12, health department spokesman Dave Hass said. Of those 12 cases, seven have required hospitalization. Six of those who were hospitalized have been released, Hass said.
  • San Diego Filiberto’s Outbreak (2006):  On September 1, 2006, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (SDHHS) and the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health announced that they were working together to investigate an apparent Shigella outbreak among customers who had eaten at the University Avenue Filiberto’s. The restaurant was closed on August 31, and according to a news release issued by SDHHS , at least ten people had become ill with apparent Shigella infections after eating at Filiberto’s in late August, three of whom were hospitalized.
  • Airline Food Outbreak linked to Gate Gourmet (2004):  In September, 2004, health agencies from several U.S. states, as well as international health agencies, began reporting persons ill with Shigella sonnei infections. An epidemiological investigation conducted by the Hawaii Department of Health, in collaboration with other health agencies, revealed that a cluster of persons ill with a genetically identical strain of Shigella had traveled by air from Honolulu, Hawaii during August 22 through 24, 2004. The investigation established that food from airline caterer Gate Gourmet, Inc.’s Honolulu, Hawaii location was a common link between airlines and the cluster of persons ill with Shigella.  Gate Gourmet, Inc.’s Honolulu facility came under fire after an inspection by the Food and Drug Administration for numerous federal food safety violations in April, 2005. Investigators found pests and vermin, food stored at temperatures over fifty degrees higher than what is considered safe, and a ‘pink slimy substance’ in the washing machine.
  • Colorado Doubletree Hotel (2003):  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) received reports of a Shigella outbreak on September 9, 2003. Interviews confirmed that multiple people had been ill during or following their stay at the Doubletree Hotel in Westminster, Colorado. CDPHE notified the Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a cluster of diarrheal illness among guests of the hotel. On September 12, CDC staff left Atlanta for Denver, to assist the CDPHE and Tri-County Health Department in their investigation of the outbreak.  Two separate large groups of hotel guests were identified; one group consisted of a wedding party; the second group consisted of a World War II veterans reunion, with attendees from a number of different states. Members of both groups, as well as a random sample of hotel guests, were contacted and interviewed; in all, 132 people.Ten individuals were diagnosed with culture-confirmed cases of Shigella sonnei infections.  On September 18, following positive stool tests from three food handlers, additional interviews of 25 kitchen staff were conducted. A kitchen chef cultured positive; he had worked September 4-6, had illness onset of September 8, and continued to work September 9-13.
  • Royal Fork Shigella Outbreak (2001):   An employee at a Mt. Vernon, Washington restaurant was determined to be the source of a Shigella outbreak. The Skagit County Health Department confirmed nine illnesses linked to food served at Royal Fork.
  • Senior Felix Outbreak (2000):  In January, 2000, a multi-state outbreak of shigellosis was traced to 5 Layer Fiesta Dip (“bean dip”) manufactured by Senor Felix Gourmet Mexican Foods. Over 335 people Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska had confirmed or suspected cases of Shigella traced to the dip.