LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas has seen a big increase this year in the number of reported cases of shigellosis, a stomach illness that is typically spread at nursing homes and childcare facilities, the state Department of Health said.
The health department said 568 cases of shigellosis have been reported since Jan. 1, and that Arkansas has recorded an average of 173 annual cases over the past five years. Those sickened by the shigella bacteria experience stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever.
"We have had a dramatic increase in the number of shigella cases," said Gary Wheeler, Arkansas Health Department branch chief of infectious diseases. "This is not unique to Arkansas. Many states around the country have noticed the same increase."
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1lTNqd7 ), an outbreak at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. headquarters in Bentonville last month possibly caused 213 cases of shigellosis, though only 45 of those cases were confirmed. In that situation, the illness was spread through food served at a food court, the health department said.
Wheeler said the Wal-Mart case is an exception to how the disease typically spreads, with most cases typically starting in day care facilities or nursing homes.
"A lot of times these diseases are introduced by an adult that is not doing good hand hygiene," Wheeler said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States each year, but that the number could be higher because some illnesses aren't reported.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com