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BEWARE: Flint Residents Face Shigellosis Due to Fear of Lead-Contaminated Waters

Oct 05, 2016 05:04 AM EDT

After suffering from the worst Legionnaires outbreak in the history of the U.s. in 2014 and disastrous water crisis in 2015, residents of Flint in Michigan are once again facing another outbreak. This time, it's an highly infectious bacterial disease called Shigellosis.

County health officials are attributing the recent outbreak of Shigellosis to poor hygiene of residents. People living in Flint are still afraid to be exposed to their local water after being tested positive for high concentrations of lead. In 2015, people exposed to the lead-contaminated water experienced rashes and hair loss. Due to this fear, residents are neglecting basic hygiene and refusing to wash their hands and take a bath.

"People aren't bathing because they're scared," said Jim Henry, Genesee County's environmental health supervisor, in a report from CNN. "Some people have mentioned that they're not going to expose their children to the water again."

Instead of washing their hands, the residents rely on baby wipes that they received for free at bottled water distribution centers. However, health officials noted that baby wipes are not enough to kill the bacteria and replace regular hand washing because it is not chlorinated.

So far, there are 53 residents in Flint who acquired shigellosis and a total of 84 cases recorded in Genesee County. Shigellosis is caused by the highly contagious Shigella bacteria. People who have acquired shigellosis may experience bloody diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. These symptoms can usually resolve after five to seven days even without the use of antibiotics. The transmission of shigellosis can be easily prevented through frequent had washing and proper hygiene.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 500,000 cases of shigellosis in the United States every year, with an average annual incidence of 4.82 cases per 100,000 individuals in 2013.

Furthermore, cases of shigellosis resistant to the first-line of drugs, including ampicillin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, are now becoming more common in the country. Antibiotic-resistant shigellosis can last longer and harder to treat than the common strains of shigella bacteria.

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