Health officials in Ocean County are tracking a surge in cases of shigella, a contagious bacterium that causes illness.

Several schools have sent letters to parents, warning about the spreading infection. LNN confirmed with pediatric offices in Lakewood that they are seeing a rise in cases.

Dr. Michael Golub, of CHEMED health centers, shared the following information for the benefit of our readers:

“Unfortunately, there is currently a very significant uptick in cases of shigella. This has been documented by the Ocean County Health Department, and has been observed by local pediatric practices.”

CHEMED provides the following information for preventing the spread of the bacteria:

Stay home from school:

  • Symptomatic persons with stool cultures positive for Shigella should be excluded from daycare until treatment is initiated, and the diarrhea has resolved.
  • If your child is having diarrhea, especially with fever, they should be evaluated by their physician. Treatment should be started promptly to hasten their recovery and shorten the duration of their contagiousness.

Additional control measures for day schools and daycare centers:

  • Appropriate hand washing and diapering practices
  • Scheduling hand washing sessions on arrival at the daycare center, before meals, or after playing outdoors
  • Supervised hand washing for young children
  • Eliminating water play areas

“May Hashem protect our community from any further spread,” Dr. Golub wrote, “and send a refuah shelima  to all those currently recovering.”

People with Shigella infection (shigellosis) usually start experiencing symptoms 1 to 2 days after contact with the germ. These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea that can be bloody or prolonged (lasting more than 3 days)
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling the need to pass stool even when the bowels are empty

Some people will not have any symptoms.

Symptoms usually last 5 to 7 days, but some people may experience symptoms anywhere from a few days to 4 or more weeks.