Onondaga County warns of Shigella outbreak

Oct 25, 2012

It's not clear where it came from, but an outbreak of shigellosis, more commonly known as shigella, continues to afflict dozens of people in Onondaga County. 

The first cases of shigella, a bacterial gastrointestinal illness, started turning up in June.  And since then, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Onondaga County Health Commissioner, says the numbers have become alarming.

"Typically in a year we might see three to five cases, we're already at over 120 confirmed cases, and in addition to that we have another approximately 50 probable cases," said Morrow.

Morrow says there have been some clusters in child care and adult care communities, but many others are spread throughout the community.  More than half of those confirmed with shigella are under five years old and the health department has has alerted day care centers and schools about the outbreak.  

"There probably was something that was contaminated at the time.  Maybe a food handler who didn't wash their hands. I don't know.  We have not identified the original source," Morrow said.  "But now it's in our community and it's propagating.  It's just self perpetuating in our community."

The fecal-oral transmission of the bacteria means it can be stopped, which is why Morrow says hand hygiene is the key to stopping this easily spread bacteria.   

"We cannot stress enough how important it is to wash your hands after you use the restroom and before you handle any food," she said.

There are no other outbreaks of this sort in New York State.