Local News

Schools Taking Measures To Prevent Future Shigellosis Outbreaks

Posted November 22, 2002

— School leaders in three counties are dealing with an outbreak of

shigellosis

. More than 200 students have come down with the highly contagious illness in recent months.

The cases have been reported in Cumberland, Hoke and Robeson counties. In a normal year, Cumberland County may see about five cases, but this year alone, officials say the county has had more than 150 cases.

At Rockfish Elementary School, students are washing their hands a lot more than they used to. Eighteen students at the school have come down with shigellosis. Officials say some students were even hospitalized for dehydration.

"It's not life-threatening, but it can be extremely inconvenient to schools, families and children who have to stay home and be treated for a while," county health director Janet Lindbloom said.

Shigellosis is extremely contagious. Symptoms, which include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, can appear within a matter of days after contamination. It is easily spread if children do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Because of all the cases at Rockfish Elementary, the school is being extra cautious. All students have reportedly been through a hand-washing class. Janitors are sanitizing the bathrooms every few hours and bleaching classrooms after school. Even teachers are taking extra measures.

"I throw away pencils and that's hard to do because I'm frugal, but I want to make sure there are no germs on the pencils," teacher Rosa Bailey said.

Letters have gone home with all Cumberland students to educate parents on shigellosis. Beginning next week, children will also be using hand sanitizer when they get off buses in the morning and when they get on buses in the afternoon.

Here are some things you can do to stop the spread of shigella.

  • Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing foods.
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
  • Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the bathroom.
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