CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Health officials are investigating multiple confirmed cases of an infectious disease at an elementary school in Cabarrus County.
The Communicable Disease Department at Cabarrus Health Alliance said they are investigating a "cluster" of bacterial gastrointestinal illness known as Shigella at Patriots Elementary School.
Officials said symptoms of Shigella are fever, bloody or watery stools, and stomach cramps, starting a day or two after you have been exposed to the bacteria.
Shigella typically resolves within five to seven days, but is highly contagious.
The Health Alliance advised parents to keep students with these symptoms home and recommend they not return to school for at least 48 hours.
Cabarrus County health officials told Channel 9 they do not know how the students got infected because the bacteria that causes Shigella can live on surfaces for months.
"Our environmental health director went to the school yesterday first thing to ensure that materials that were being used to clean are appropriate to ensure that there's not a spread and will kill Shigella if it's left on a surface," Cabarrus Health Alliance spokesperson Marcella Beam said.
Health officials said the best practices to avoid the spread of Shigella is to practice good hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and before eating.
Parent Vindal Ogletree said he expects his son to come home from school with homework. He said he never thought he could come home with Shigella.
"It's different. You don't hear about it often, but when you do, as a parent, you're concerned," Ogletree said. "We heard about it yesterday and we stopped him right at the door and made him take all his clothes and stuff off."
Another parents said they are concerned about the spread of Shigella heading into the holiday season.
"I'm concerned just because I don't want my kids getting sick and different things," mother Rachel Renshaw said. We're going for Christmas and the holidays to my dad. He has an immuno-compromised system, but we can't do anything about it. You can't live in a bubble, we just do everything we can to prevent it.
The school district said custodians will continue cleaning the school from top to bottom and will be going over all the surfaces the sick students may have touched.
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