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Stomach bug cases increasing around Central Florida; CDC warns of drug-resistant bacteria

A rendering of Shigella bacteria, which is a drug-resistant bacteria that cause the infection shigellosis. Symptoms include severe, bloody diarrhea.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A rendering of Shigella bacteria, which is a drug-resistant bacteria that cause the infection shigellosis. Symptoms include severe, bloody diarrhea.

Reports of stomach bugs are growing increasingly throughout the country.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionissued a health warning regarding Shigella bacteria, which is drug-resistant and causes severe, bloody diarrhea. It is commonly spread through fecal matter either in person-to-person contact or contaminated food.

Orlando Health, Nemours Children Hospital, and Central Florida AdventHealth have not been seeing any Shigella hospitalizations. Although AdventHealth Centra Care has seen a 23% increase in stomach bugs, mostly norovirus, said Dr. Timothy Hendryx, the medical director for Adventhealth Centracare.

“We've seen an increase in diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, what we call gastroenteritis, probably about a 23% increase in the last couple of weeks and the number of people coming into Centracare with intestinal symptoms,” Hendrix said.

The norovirus typically shows increased levels of infection in winter, Hendrix said.

Why is the CDC concerned with Shigella?

Shigella is an extensively drug-resistant bacteria, according to the CDC.

"We're seeing more drug resistance by Shigella and salmonella, salmonella and E. coli, etc. These types of intestinal bacteria because all bacteria are now developing, and you know this resistance to certain types of antibiotics," Hendrix said.

Because of the bacteria's resistance, the CDC currently does not have treatment recommendations.

How does someone get infected?

It is transmitted via a fecal-oral route, directly through person-to-person contact including sexual contact, and indirectly through contaminated food and water.

Historically, Shigella is observed in children ages 1-4, but the CDC has been seeing increased Shigella infections in older populations such as men having sex with men, international travelers, people experiencing homelessness, or those in the HIV community.

What are the symptoms?

Shigellosis causes inflammatory diarrhea that can be bloody. Fever, abdominal cramping, and tenesmus are also common symptoms, according to the CDC.

How to protect yourself

"Most intestinal infections caused by other viruses or bacteria run the course and their self-limited usually resolve on their own," Hendrix said. “But if you're getting any symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, lead in this tool, fever, increasing severity, or diarrhea that's not resolving after a few days, that's the time to get into Centracare."

Handwashing is very effective in avoiding Shigella, which is transmissible through person-to-person contact or contaminated food. Hendrix says if someone is experiencing diarrhea for more than 24 hours they should seek medical attention.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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