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Santa Cruz health officials monitor bacteria outbreak among homeless

PIX Now Afternoon Edition 2-29-24
PIX Now Afternoon Edition 2-29-24 07:16

An outbreak of infectious bacteria is being monitored by the Santa Cruz County Public Health Division, county officials said Thursday.

At least 27 cases of shigellosis have been recorded in the county since late January, mostly among people who have experienced homelessness. Of those, 16 have been lab-confirmed and 11 remain under investigation, according to the public health division.

Shigellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria shigella that can easily spread from person to person, often by touching surfaces contaminated with the bacteria and then ingesting it, swimming in contaminated water, or changing diapers of an infected person.

County health officials are working with those from the city of Santa Cruz, the Sheriff's Office, and the county Homeless Persons Health Project to contain the outbreak. 

Medical providers and hospitals are also working to try to identify additional cases and connect patients with medical care.

Symptoms usually include diarrhea, stomach pain, and a fever. They usually come on one to two days after an infection and last about a week. 

"At this time the risk to the broader community is low, but people can protect themselves from Shigella by washing their hands with soap and water carefully and frequently, especially after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing and consuming foods or beverages," said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Santa Cruz County's health officer. 

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