Date PostedApril 3, 2013

Beware Drug Resistant Shigella

Workers in the food service industry need to undergo Food Handling and Safety training in order to learn the techniques to preparing and serving food in a manner that is hygienic and safe for customers. We often hear of restaurants that receive fines or get their names listed on the name and shame registers for hygiene breaches and no one wants their eatery in the same position, or an even worse one if customers are made ill because of eating contaminated food.

There are various bacteria that can contaminate food and subsequently sicken anyone who consumes it. While most foodborne illnesses pass after a week or two a recent Shigella outbreak in California demonstrates how risky foodborne bacteria can be.

In May 2012 a Shigella outbreak erupted in LA. The outbreak was traced back to a private bridge club in LA country and was the first outbreak lined to a drug resistant strain of Shigella. The bacteria have been found to have a decreased susceptibility to an antibiotic used to fight the bacteria by the name of Azithromycin. The antibiotic is usually the most effective means of fighting the Shigella.

According to a post on, the U.S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported that cases of shigellosis had been reported that were not effectively treated with azithromycin.

Read what the article on said about the resistant strain outbreak:

bridgeclub-406-300x184Cases of shigellosis with lowered susceptibility to azithromycin have appeared sporadically in the U.S., but this was the first documented outbreak. Outbreak samples submitted to the CDC also showed resistance to streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, tetracycline and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

Patients were found to have visited or worked at the bridge club between May 22 and 26, 2012, with ages ranging from 54 to 98 years old.

County health investigators ultimately found 39 shigellosis cases among visitors, along with two workers who experienced symptoms such as diarrhea, and an additional two infected workers who did not show symptoms. Thirty-one sought medical care and 10 were hospitalized.

Investigators did not find a specific outbreak source. PulseNet, a nationwide epidemiology network, identified two additional Shigella isolates genetically indistinguishable from the outbreak strain: one from a Pennsylvania man who visited L.A. in April, and another from a Hawaii man who visited L.A. during April and May. Neither of these patients had a connection to the bridge club.


If bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to medication, prevention is even more of an important issue and staff of restaurants needs to be aware of the dangers that contaminated food holds.

How Shigella bacteria (or any foodborne bacterium) spread can be minimised, is probably the most important question that food handlers need to ask themselves?

Frequent and careful hand washing with soap is probably the most important step in preventing the spread of Shigella. Hand washing among children should be frequent and supervised by an adult in day-care centres and homes with children who have not been fully toilet trained.

Basic food safety precautions and disinfection of drinking water prevents shigellosis from food and water. However, people with shigellosis should not prepare food or drinks for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the Shigella bacterium, or if they have had no diarrhoea for at least 2 days. At swimming beaches, having enough bathrooms and hand washing stations with soap near the swimming area helps keep the water from becoming contaminated. Day-care centres should not provide water play areas.

Simple precautions taken while traveling to the developing world can prevent shigellosis. Drink only treated or boiled water and eat only cooked hot foods or fruits you peel yourself as much as possible especially when travelling.


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