Grayson County Health Department Director John Teel said 13 county residents are now feeling much better after having recovered from an intestinal disease called shigella, a cousin to the more common diseases salmonella and E. coli.

Grayson County Health Department Director John Teel said 13 county residents are now feeling much better after having recovered from an intestinal disease called shigella, a cousin to the more common diseases salmonella and E. coli.


Shigella, Teel said, was diagnosed in six students at Sory Elementary, one at Dillingham Intermediate and one at Fairview Elementary school. Two other children, who are not school-aged but are related to one of the school-aged children, were also diagnosed with the illness. Hallmarks for the disease, Teel said, are a sudden onset of high fever and bloody or mucus-filled diarrhea. The illness is developed after one somehow ingests fecal matter. Teel said the illness is easily treated with antibiotics. The problem, he said, is parents see a lot of stomach bugs with their children, so they may not know immediately that the child is suffering from something more serious.


Teel said the hope, right now, is that this was a small outbreak that has passed. He said the last person who was reported sick was diagnosed on Nov. 3. It takes about two days, Teel said, from the time the person ingests the fecal matter for the person to become ill. The Grayson County Health Department first heard about the outbreak on Oct. 18 when two different doctors called to report that they had diagnosed the disease in children. That same day, Teel said, Health Department officials saw confirmation of a diagnosis of the illness on a national database that tracks such things. He said it is rare that the Department gets information confirmed from three different sources.


Teel said, based on conversations with the people who were infected and tests, the Health Department has concluded that this mini outbreak probably spread from one child to another and to the three adults who were infected.


"This is not a single-source case," Teel said. He noted that a single-source case would be an instance where several people got sick from eating at a particular restaurant or event or buying produce that came from a particular farm.


"Children (at the elementary school level) don’t have very advanced hand-washing skills typically," Teel said. He said two other grown-ups tested positive for the bacteria but were not sick.


Teel said, two adults who were related to one of the sick children did work in food service at local eateries. He noted, however, that the Health Department found no reason to believe there is any health risk at either establishment. Another person worked at a local grocery store and that store was also cleared as the source of the illness.


He added, however, that the adults were required to stay away from their work places until they could be tested for the illness. They had to return two clean tests before they could return to work.


The best thing to do to keep from catching shigella and similar diseases, Teel said, is to practice good hand-washing skills. He said one rule of thumb is to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while washing hands vigorously in warm water with soap.


He said adults often become sick with these types of illness while cleaning up after sick children, so it is very important that those parents take precautions to clean with disinfectants and to avoid touching their face while cleaning. Gloves, he said, would also be a good idea.