Marion County reports rise in Shigellosis cases; young children most at risk
The Marion County Public Health Department is trying to prevent the spread of a contagious disease that's seen a significant increase in cases this year. There have already been 162 cases of Shigellosis in 2014. Last year, there were only 32.
Shigellosis is a potentially serious infection that is easily passed by a germ from one person to another through the oral-fecal route. The spread often happens due to poor hand washing after using the bathroom.
Symptoms can include fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone with shigellosis should stay home and avoid contact with others until the infection has cleared.
"Children who are sick should stay home from childcare and summer camp, and should avoid other activities, such as swimming," said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. "We must work together to protect the health of everyone in our community."
It's the germs that she can't see that worry mother Labreia Bellows as she watches her three-year-old daughter Kylie at the pool at Garfield Park.
"I just keep on eye on everything," said Bellows.
Bellows said she knows kids have accidents in the pool and go swimming when they're already sick, but if it happened when she was there, she couldn't stay.
"I'd leave immediately," said Bellows.
The possibility is there at any pool, but with cases of Shigellosis up in Marion County in the past three months, some parents said they can't be too careful.
"I try to keep her from drinking the water," said mom Areatha Dudley of her daughter.
Dudley can only do so much though with her daughter playing underwater if other kids are there and sick.
"If your kid's sick, keep 'em at home," said Dudley. "You don't want everybody's kids sick. Please keep your kids at home."
It hasn't happened so far this season, but Garfield Aquatic Center Supervisor Liz Horton says even when kids are sick, "you would be surprised. They come to the pool anyway."
That's why Indy Parks pools sell special swimming diapers for babies, just in case. If someone does get sick in the pool, the fun's over for everyone.
"We do have to shut it down for no shorter period of time than 12 hours," explained Horton.
That's why pool supervisors ask parents to keep their kids home if they've been sick with diarrhea.
"We would rather have them wait for that two weeks so they are completely clear of that sickness," said Horton.
"If she has diarrhea, I wouldn't come to the pool," said mom Abi Gomez. "The child's an innocent bystander. So it's the parents responsibility to make sure that they're keeping them safe."
Gomez said she hopes most parents are thinking the same way this summer. She knows, though, that's not always the case.
"It's easier to come to the pool then to have the water hose going for hours," said Gomez.
Hours are all it takes for symptoms of Shigellosis to show up if a child's been exposed to the germ. But it can be days, sometimes a week, before someone who has Shigellosis to feel better.
Sometimes the infection can be so bad, antibiotics are needed to get rid of the symptoms.
Shigellosis is caused by Shigella, a strong germ that can live for four days outside the body on common objects. Surfaces such as toys, the toilet flush handle, toilet seat, water faucet handles, door knobs and diaper changing tables should be cleaned thoroughly and frequently.