Health officials in Jefferson County have a serious problem on their hands. During a press conference held at Trinity Health System, officials announced that there is a serious outbreak of an intestinal infection called Shigella spreading throughout the county.
19 cases of Shigella have been reported in Jefferson County since late February. Officials say they’re the only county in the Ohio Valley and even the state to see an outbreak as bad as this.
“We’re the only county in the state. So there must be a root cause in the area, somewhere,” says Dr. Frank Petrola.
Officials find this especially troubling because they usually have 1 case a year. Now, they’ve had 19 cases in 5 months with 70% of the patients under the age of 10.
This highly infectious disease is spread through infected or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another, by eating contaminated foods, and by drinking or swimming in contaminated waters.
In some cases, especially with children under the age of 2 or the elderly, this can be fatal due to the severe dehydration, cramps, and fever that this disease causes.
“That’s when it’s most likely fatal. Not usually secondary from the infection itself but from the complications from the dehydration from electrolyte abnormalities that go on and cause other problems whether they’re heart related or neurologically related,” says Dr. Kenneth Woods.
This spreading of this disease can be prevented simply by washing our hands with soap frequently and practicing good hygiene.
Officials still do not know the cause of this disease, but in the meantime, they are interviewing the patients extensively and getting the Center for Disease Control involved.
“Stool samples will be sent to the CDC they were sent to the Ohio Department of Health first it will take a while to get those back and the purpose of that is to see if it’s coming from the same genotype if it’s coming from the same agent so hopefully we can narrow it down and see what’s going on,” says Steubenville City Health Commissioner Shaleeta Smith.