Friday, August 17, 2001

Start of school raises shigella fears

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati health officials are urging schools to take extra steps to keep a diarrhea-causing illness from invading their classrooms.

        Shigella is a bacterial illness that mainly strikes young children. Most cases are the result of the bacteria from stools or soiled fingers of one person traveling to the mouth of another person.

        “We're not ready to relax at this point, especially with schools starting and a lot of 3- and 4-year-olds returning to school,” said Dr. Judith Daniels, medical director of the Cincinnati Health Department. “Once we get the schools started for a couple of weeks, then we'll be able to relax a bit.”

        This year, 1,613 shigella cases have been reported to Cincinnati and Hamilton County health officials. There were 18 cases for all of 2000.

        The Hamilton County General Health District advises schools to:

        • Equip bathrooms with soap and paper towels.

        • Put up health posters that say “Mother always said wash your hands. Listen to your mother!” and “Stop! Wash your Paws, Soldier!”

        • Monitor hand-washing techniques in kindergarten through third grade so that students wash their hands before eating and scrub their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.

        • Clean bathrooms twice a day with a high-grade disinfectant.

        • Wash and disinfect toys that have been in a student's mouth.

        • Advise parents to keep their children home if they have three or more loose bowel movements in a 24-hour period.

        “They're telling us (that) it's reached epidemic proportions. We're trying to prevent an outbreak in the schools,” said Jan Leslie, spokeswoman for Cincinnati Public Schools.


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