Kids and Hand-washing

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States. Shigellosis is frequently begun and spread by the infamous bacteria E. Coli, with which we have become all too familiar in recent years with respect to food and food handling safety.

The symptoms of shigellosis are diarrhea, cramping and fever. The illness can last a week or months–and if it lasts too long, it can become dangerous to infants, children, the elderly and those who are already ill or have weakened immune systems. The disease often occurs in child care settings, such as daycare, or in families with small children.

Shigellosis is particularly common and repeatedly causes problems in settings where there is often poor basic hygiene. It can affect entire communities and is more prolific in the summer than in winter. The biggest target for shigellosis is children from age 2 to 4–not to mention the caregivers and family members who care for them. Shigellosis can occur where water or food have been contaminated by the bacteria, it can be spread by consuming contaminated produce–fruits or vegetables. Making municipal water supplies safe and treating sewage are effective measures communities can put in place to combat shigellosis. Washing hands, especially when children have been toileted, is one way parents and caregivers can make sure the disease doesn’t get started or spread. Currently, there is no vaccine against shigellosis, although there is active research toward its development.

CDC suggests the following things parents and caregivers can do to help prevent the spread of Shigellosis:

  • Wash hands frequently and carefully with soap, especially after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and before and after preparing foods and beverages;
  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly;
  • Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them;
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings;
  • Supervise hand-washing of toddlers and small children after toileting;
  • Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea;
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

Shigellosis can be a very big problem– and hand-washing is an important part of the solution.

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