San Jose homeless encampments face Shigella outbreak, public health department says

An outbreak of Shigella gastrointestinal illness has been identified in homeless encampments in San Jose since June 3, according to the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.

There have been three confirmed cases of Shigella linked to the outbreak, as well as four cases being evaluated and at least 19 suspected cases, said Dr. Monika Roy, assistant health officer and communicable disease controller for the county. Santa Clara. Two of the cases required hospitalization, and that’s how authorities became aware of the outbreak, she added during a press conference Tuesday.

Shigella is a gastrointestinal illness that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, Roy said. It is spread primarily through contact with infected stool or eating or eating contaminated food, according to the county’s Shigella fact sheet. Although most individuals resolve the illness on their own, some cases require antibiotics, Roy added, and this is only fatal in “rare cases.”

Shigella is an “extremely contagious disease,” Roy explained. It only takes a small amount of bacteria to cause the disease, and it spreads quickly in areas with limited access to sanitation and hygiene, making encampments particularly prone to spread.

“What is worrying about this epidemic is not the absolute number. We see cases of Shigella regularly,” Roy said. “What is more concerning is the number of people related to each other.”

The cases have primarily affected encampments in the Columbus Park area, Roy said, but other encampments in San Jose have also seen cases or suspected cases.

“We’re working aggressively to get testing to all of these people and get those test kits back, but it’s a challenge,” Roy said. “It will be difficult to identify every person who may be infected. »

The public health department is primarily focusing on two areas to combat the outbreak, Roy said: identifying cases to provide testing and treatment, and preventing the spread of the disease. The department sent field teams to affected encampments to provide hygiene and testing kits, then returned later to collect completed tests. Disease investigators, doctors and nurses also contributed to these efforts.

“The best way to combat this outbreak or contain it is really to improve sanitation, improve hygiene and provide clean water to residents who may be sick or at risk,” Roy said.

This outbreak is particularly difficult to manage because the county suspects more people contracted the disease but were not sick enough to seek treatment, Roy said. “That’s why we have a large number of suspected cases,” she added.

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Gn Health

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