Shigellosis, a drug-resistant intestinal illness, is sweeping its way across the U.S. and has infected 243 people throughout 32 states, as well as Puerto Rico since May 2014.
Reducing antibiotic overuse
Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
are recommending a reduction in the antibiotic treatment of milder
forms of shigellosis, fearing we could end up with large outbreaks.
In the past, antibiotic-resistant forms of Shigella, the bacteria
that leads to the development of shigellosis, have been rare in the U.S.
However, international travelers have repeatedly introduced it back
into the country. In fact, half the CDC-identified cases were associated
with travelers who had spent time in the Dominican Republic and India.
shigellosis causes painful episodes of bloody or watery diarrhea,
fever, and abdominal pain, many people seek to treat it immediately with
antibiotics. Since it is usually treated with a drug called
ciprofloxacin, now that medicine is losing effectiveness. Compounding
the problem is the fact that shigellosis is already resistant to several
other antibiotics used in the U.S.
Shigellosis is easily spread
As explained in a statement by CDC Director Tom Frieden, “Drug-resistant
infections are harder to treat and because Shigella spreads so easily
between people, the potential for more – and larger – outbreaks is a
real concern. We’re moving quickly to implement a national strategy to
curb antibiotic resistance because we can’t take for granted that we’ll
always have the drugs we need to fight common infections.”
Shigellosis is quickly spread from one person to another by food, and
also by the use of recreational water like pools. While it does
generally resolve itself within a week, it can be painful to endure.
Developing drug resistance
like Shigella begin to develop resistance to antibiotics when they come
into contact with doses that are not high enough to kill them. This
allows the bacteria to adapt itself for survival and then passes along
that resistance to later generations.
While officials are not exactly sure why drug-resistant Shigella has
become such a growing problem in the U.S., it is most likely due to
people who were overprescribed medication unnecessarily and then stopped
taking it before the full course was finished.
Shigellosis clusters in the U.S.
Sizeable clusters of the antibiotic-resistant shigellosis have been
found in California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Outside of the
cases identified involving international travelers, there are also
domestic clusters that are starting to emerge.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has recorded 95 cases
of the drug-resistant illness so far. Out of those 95 cases, half of
them involve homeless people or people who live in single occupancy
An ounce of prevention
The best way to protect yourself, as with most things, is through
frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water. If you travel
abroad, it is best to drink fluids directly from the sealed containers
they came in. Likewise, be sure to eat hot foods from the sealed
containers they were packaged in as well.
—The Alternative Daily