Boone County Health Dept. warns of bacterial infection outbreak

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BOONE COUNTY - The Columbia/Boone County Department of Health has received seven times as many reports of an intestinal infection called Shigella than in previous years.

Sarah Rainey, epidemiologist for the Department of Health, said she has received 42 reports of Shigella in the Boone County area. Rainey said in the past five years, the Department has received an average of six reports of the infection annually.

Rainey said she does not know why there has been such a spike in Shigella diagnoses, but it is common for the infection to spread after it's brought to an area.

Dr. Eric Bettis said Shigella is an intestinal infection that produces flu-like symptoms in people infected.

"Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, all of these symptoms are common. And it is highly contagious," he said.

Bettis said the infection usually will go away on its own. He said the main concern with the illness is dehydration.

"I don't want people to overreact," Bettis said. "As with all infections it can be dangerous for infants or people with compromised immune systems. But for the most part, if you follow your doctor's guidelines, you should be back to your everyday life in about a week."

He said proper hand-washing is the best way to prevent the illness.