Update: Shigella outbreak in San Diego County – 10-26-2021 | News

San Diego County announced six new cases of shigella linked to an ongoing outbreak, bringing the total to 23 confirmed cases and four probable cases among people experiencing homelessness.

Ongoing investigation shows the onset of illness dates between August 16 and October 17, with three new cases occurring between September 10 and October 17. The 27 cases in this outbreak represent 9% of the total 290 cases reported so far in San Diego County.

All cases are among individuals with homelessness who reside in multiple locations in central San Diego. No source of the outbreak has been identified at this time.

The District works closely with the City of San Diego to:

  • Identify potential exposure sites.
  • Promote good hygiene among homeless service providers and caterers.
  • Define additional cases.
  • Connecting patients to treatment and housing.

Other steps include:

  • Relocate currently deployed handwashing stations to areas frequented by homeless people and assess the need for additional stations.
  • Increasing the cleaning of mobile and fixed public restrooms.
  • Increase pavement clearance from twice a week to seven days a week for now. Frequency will be constantly evaluated.
  • Notice from the District’s Department of Environmental Health and Quality regarding outbreaks — and precautions — for downtown area dining facilities, charitable nutrition operators, the California Restaurant Association, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the Homeless Community Regional Task Force and the Gaslamp Quarter.
  • Public health nurses conduct outreach in shelters.
  • Homeless outreach teams provide shelter resources and distribute shigella information as part of hygiene kits for people experiencing homelessness, including an additional 600 in the week of October 18.

Shigella is a contagious infection that is usually spread by contaminated surfaces, food, or water, or from person to person. Those at increased risk include young children (particularly those in day care homes), people experiencing homelessness, travelers to locations with poor sanitation and men who have sex with men. In 2020, a total of 240 cases of shigellosis were reported in San Diego County residents, while the 426 cases reported in 2019 were the highest since 1995.

Typical symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. While most people recover completely without antibiotic treatment, some individuals with weakened immune systems can develop a life-threatening illness and may need further treatment. People with shigella-like symptoms should contact their medical provider. The provider may order a stool test to help with diagnosis.

Strategies to avoid infection or spread of Shigella include washing hands frequently and not preparing food while you have diarrhoea.

More information about shigella and precautions is available at boycott, a California Health Alert Network Notice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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