Shigella infections.jpgThere has been a noticeable spike in Shigella infections throughout Florida and Georgia (the First Coast).  In Florida, for example, there were 1,213 reported Shigella infections in 2010.  This year, there has been 2,218 cases.  The reason for the spike is not currently known, although the Duval County Health Department is busy investigating.

Shigella belongs to a family of bacteria that can cause sudden and severe diarrhea in humans. Shigellosis, the illness caused by the ingestion of Shigella bacteria, is also known as bacillary dysentery. Shigella thrives in the human intestine and is commonly spread both through food and person-to-person contact.  Shigella is the third most common pathogen transmitted through food.

Jacksonville NBC affiliate First Coast News reports:

Duval County health leaders say kids are very vulnerable to the infection. Seventy-four percent of cases here have been people between the 0-and-19 age range.

“It’s harder to get kids to wash their hands properly and certainly the little kids like two to four year olds, you have to watch them wash their hands because they’re still learning to wash their hands and so you just really have to encourage that good behavior,” said Karen Elliott, surveillance epidemiologist with the Duval County Health Department.