Officials: Shigellosis May Have Taken A Downturn

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- There are now 24 confirmed cases of Shigellosis in Knox County following last week’s Shigella outbreak in our region.

Shigella is hard to predict, because unlike many illnesses, it isn't airborne.

Instead it's spread through direct contact meaning it comes down largely to personal hygiene.

But public health officials say it does appear to be on the downturn.

The other East Tennessee counties haven't had a confirmed case in three days.

Their total still standing at 20 cases combined.

Knox County Health Officials have identified Powell Elementary School as a source of contamination in the spread of Shigella in the community.

They say children were spreading it to other children and then taking the bacteria home and spreading it to other family members.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, a Knox County Public Health Officer says the timing of fall break this week has helped stop the spread.

"I think it was lovely timing to have an outbreak,” Dr. Buchanan said. “If you can have a good time for an outbreak, it's when you automatically have something going on that's going to send everybody home from school."

School officials say their janitorial staff has disinfected the building and installed hand sanitizing dispensers.

Teachers have been instructed to monitor for proper hand-washing and health inspectors have given the building a clean bill of health to open Monday morning.

"We were concerned about, you know, are they cleaning the toilet facilities regularly,” Dr. Buchanan asked. “Is there something shared that the kids would be using that might be a place where they can transmit and we didn't find any of those things?"

But just because your child has had Shigellosis once, does not mean he or she is immune from getting it again.

"So, if your kid was sick before, they're well now and somebody comes back and they give your child Shigella at school, your child will get sick again," Dr. Buchanan said.

Which is why public health officials are asking you to observe the guidelines they've established.

Children shouldn't return to school until 48 hours after they are diarrhea free.

And children who go to daycare and adults who work at a daycare or restaurant shouldn't return for 48 hours and must have a negative Shigella culture.

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