Wash your hands to prevent stomach illness

SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw County Department of Public Health is reminding people to wash their hands after seeing an uptick in stomach ailments caused by shigellosis.

Public Health Nurse Susan Garlick said there have been 18 cases of the disease confirmed in June in Saginaw County. Last year at this time, there were none.

“The state over the last few years has changed testing to be more sensitive, but I think it’s people not washing their hands, especially kids,” she said. “People need to be diligent about washing their hands and cleaning their homes with bleach.”

Shigellosis is a disease caused by bacteria that infect the intestines. It is very easily spread because it takes only a few bacteria to infect someone. Symptoms usually last four to seven days or longer if untreated with IV fluids or antibiotics, Garlick said.

Symptoms include stomach aches, fever, diarrhea with blood or mucus and nausea and vomiting. It is spread when people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom or changing the diaper of a child with the illness.

Garlick said the current cases range from people ages 2 through 60, emphasizing that anyone is at risk. Aside from this uptick, the average confirmed case per month is 2 to 4.

How to avoid shigellosis:

Wash your hands often, ideally several times throughout the day. It should be done before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom and after changing a diaper.

Wash your hands properly with warm, running water and soap for at least 20 seconds. That’s the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end. Dry with a paper towel.

Keep home and work surfaces clean, especially bathroom counters or other objects that could be contaminated. Use bleach with 1 part chlorine and 9 parts water. The bleach should have a sodium hypochlorite active ingredient of at least 5.25 percent.