San Francisco Suffers Shigella Outbreak

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Shigella OutbreakOver 180 people across six counties in the San Jose area have fallen ill in an outbreak of shigella. Health officials are urgently warning people to take appropriate precautions due to how quickly the bacteria can spread. According to health officials, 12 people have developed symptoms severe enough to be admitted to intensive care units.

The outbreak was traced to Mariscos San Juan, a Mexican seafood restaurant that is believed to be the origin point of the infections. Infected food was served on October 16 and 17, resulting in more than 80 cases of illness within the first three days. The restaurant has since been shut down and currently faces three lawsuits by victims of food poisoning.

It is unknown at this time if the shigella was transmitted from an employee or whether the source was in the food or vegetables the restaurant used. However, health officials have run tests on all of the Mariscos employees and results are expected to come in later this week.

Shigella is a highly contagious bacterium that is transmitted primarily through fecal-oral contact. This usually means that transmission occurs when people fail to wash their hands properly after a bowel movement or after changing a diaper. It can also be transmitted by ingesting infected water or through anal sex.

Once infected, a person will begin showing symptoms of shigella within two days of exposure. Fever, abdominal pain, and potentially bloody diarrhea are commonly experienced. It is not uncommon for patients to feel like they need to defecate even if the bowels are empty. This is called “tenesmus” and the sensation can be strong enough to induce painful cramps. There is also a risk of dehydration from the water loss the diarrhea can cause.

Cases of shigella typically resolve within a week, but complications can arise in older or immune-compromised individuals, such as blood poisoning. Those with a genetic predisposition may also be vulnerable to post-infection arthritis as the body reacts to lingering traces of the bacteria. In most cases, it can take up to several months for the body’s bowel habits to return to normal even after the bacteria are eliminated.

Due to how contagious shigella is, health officials are urging anyone infected to both wash their hands regularly and to refrain from going to work until cured.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Palmer, B., “Over 200 People in the San Francisco Area Affected by the Shigella,” Albany Daily Star Gazette web site, October 27, 2015;
“Shigella – Shigellosis,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, last updated August 5, 2015;, last accessed October 27, 2015.
Thrash, A., “Updated Information Regarding Shigella Outbreak Linked To Restaurant Exposure In San Jose,” SCC web site, October 20, 2015; News Releases/Shigella-10-20-15-PM.pdf.