CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. - Health officials are monitoring a community-wide outbreak of shigella in Cabarrus County. The bacteria can mean hospitalization for some. Shigella causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. It’s been moving from schools to workplaces, across Cabarrus County. Now other counties are on alert for the symptoms to spread.
The Shigella germ is tiny and 400 of the organisms can fit on the top of a pin needle, but it only takes 10 to make you sick.
Children at Bethel Elementary, where the first cases were reported, are still coming down with the symptoms and parents are on high alert.
"I took precautions and had her tested, but the test hasn't come back yet," Sonya Hinson said about her daughter.
Health officials said there are 64 people in the county reporting symptoms of shigellosis. So far, 21 of those are confirmed.
"There are likely more cases out there," Clinical Services Director Suzanne Knight said.
Knight said in order for the outbreak to stop, people need to stay at home if they're sick and not come back to work or school until 48 hours after symptoms stop. Knight said you'll know if you have shigellosis.
"It's watery diarrhea, usually bloody, accompanied by abdominal pain, fever," Knight said.
But the Shigella germ is hard to fight. For many families, the first line of defense is hand sanitizer. But Knight says they may not be effective killing the bacteria.
"Certainly it's better than nothing, and that's what hand sanitizers have always been meant to be used for, but nothing beats soap and water," Knight said.
She recommends parents watch their kids wash their hands. And parents at Bethel Elementary are doing just that.
"You don't want them to be where they're hospitalized," Sharon Hunsucker said. "That's the worst feeling for a mom to have to visit their kid in the hospital."
Health Department officials said Mecklenburg County has had no reported cases but because of the outbreak in Cabarrus County, health officials are monitoring the situation.
If you have further questions, call your child's health care provider or the Cabarrus Health Alliance at 704-920-1213.