As Drug-Resistant Bug Spreads Through California, No Cases Yet in Imperial County

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A severe strain of the intestinal virus shigellosis, which spreads through feces, has raised concerns in recent months.

A drug-resistant illness that’s infected several hundred people throughout the United States, including California, has yet to surface in Imperial or Riverside County, a Department of Public Health official said Wednesday.

According to federal health authorities, a severe strain of the intestinal virus shigellosis has raised concerns in recent months because antibiotics have not proved effective combating it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory last week saying patients treated with ciprofloxacin, better known as Cipro, were not recovering any quicker than they would without it.

Shigellosis had shown resistance to other antibiotics, such as ampicillin and trimethoprim, but the Cipro development was new, health officials said.

Shigellosis triggers diarrhea that’s typically watery or bloody, and patients often struggle with fever, abdominal pain and general weakness, according to health officials.

“Drug-resistant infections are harder to treat, and because shigella (bacteria) spreads so easily between people, the potential for more — and larger — outbreaks is a real concern,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

About 250 cases of drug-resistant shigellosis have been confirmed since last May, with a large cluster identified in San Francisco, according to the CDC.

Cole told City News Service that there’s no reason to suspect that an outbreak is imminent locally.

The CDC has blamed international travelers for bringing the latest strain to U.S. shores.

“It’s spread through feces,” Cole told CNS. “Contaminated fecal matter coming into contact with someone’s mouth leads to an infection. Failing to practice good hygiene is a common factor.”

She said the disease is generally not fatal, though “underlying health problems” increase the risk of prolonged illness and other complications.

Health officials stressed the need for frequent and thorough hand- washing and other sanitary measures to prevent contracting the bug, incllding eating steaming hot meals and only accepting drinks that are in sealed containers.

According to Cole, the county had 33 shigellosis cases in 2013 — the latest year for which data was available — and 42 cases in 2012.

She said anyone exhibiting symptoms should immediately consult a physician.