Bacteria outbreak reported in Kingsport school

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Sullivan County Health Department have confirmed two cases of shigellosis, an infectious diarrhea, in two students at Washington Elementary School in Kingsport.
   Letters were sent home to parents informing them of the shigella outbreak in the Kingsport school. Several other cases have been reported in Virginia and Sullivan County.
   Shigella is a bacterial illness which causes fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and watery, sometimes bloody, diarrhea. The letter stated that if a child was experiencing these symptoms to keep them from attending school, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, and see a physician.
   "School officials are aware of the situation and have implemented appropriate infection control measures," a press release from Sullivan County Regional Medical Director A. Stephen May, M.D. states.
   The bacteria shigella causes the disease which can last 5 to 7 days. In some cases, especially in young children and elderly persons, the diarrhea can be severe enough to warrant hospitalization.
   Shigellosis can sometimes be treated with antibiotics to shorten the illness. However, some shigella bacteria has become resistant to antibiotics. A mild infection will usually heal without antibiotic treatment.
   The bacteria is passed from one person to another. Basic hygiene and hand washing habits are extremely important in keeping the bacteria from passing to another person. Toddlers who are not fully potty trained are more likely to carry the disease, and family members or playmates are at a high risk of becoming infected.
   Frequent and careful hand washing with soap will help prevent the spread of the bacteria, but unfortunately there is no vaccine to prevent it.
   According to a release from the health department, "Frequent, supervised hand washing of all children should be followed in day care centers and in homes with children who are not completely toilet-trained (including children in diapers).
   "When possible, young children with a Shigella infection who are still in diapers should not be in contact with uninfected children. People who have shigellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the shigella bacterium."