Taking a trip? Beware of ‘traveler’s diarrhea’

Photo courtesy: Centers for Disease Control.

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Doctors at Patient First are weighing in on a warning from the Centers for Disease Control that a super stomach bug is spreading.

It’s called Shigellosis, and it hits hard.

“It takes only a microscopic amount to start getting you sick,” Dr. Christopher Dietz says about the shigella bacteria.

He explains Shigellosis is often called Traveler’s Diarrhea because the bacteria is picked up out of the country and brought back in.  Once it is here, it can easily spread.  Dr. Dietz says nursing homes and childcare facilities are especially at risk.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever and bloody diarrhea.  They typically last a week.

The Virginia Department of Health tracks about 400 cases of Shigellosis every year, but many more go unreported.

Now this strain at the center of the CDC’s warning is drug-resistant.  There have been 243 cases of it reported across the United States and Puerto Rico between May 2014 and February 2015.  Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania have had outbreaks.

“It’s really something to be looking out for,” says Dr. Dietz.

He adds that hand washing with soap and water is the best way to fight the shigella bacteria.

“It can be introduced into food from people having the bacteria on their hands, Dr. Dietz says.  “It can be on surfaces, so you touch the surface, you put your hands to your mouth or your face or eat food before you wash your hands.”

Because there is sometimes a link to eating, the CDC also says travelers can protect themselves by consuming only hot food and drinking from sealed containers.  That will cut down on their picking up the bacteria and carrying it home to their communities.

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