RICHMOND, VA (NBC12) - Richmond health officials are aggressively working to rid area schools and daycares, of a harmful bacteria. It's called, shigellosis.
The health district, now has what it calls a "Public Health Response Team" to deal with shigellosis. Letters are going out to all daycares and schools. They want to explain the disease to parents, and stop the spread before it gets worse.
Shigellosis is an infectious disease characterized by diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
Last year in Richmond, only three cases were reported. This year, more than 30, in the past month.
The most recent cases in Richmond are said to be relatively mild. But, when four city schools and two daycare centers have seen sick students, it's obvious that the illness affects much more than the individuals involved.
"Fairfield three classes that were impacted had about a 30 percent absentee rate. So, if you're primary focus is education and those kids aren't school, that's disruptive to your mission," says Dr. Donald Stern, of the Richmond City Health District.
Shigellosis is spead from person to person, mostly involving children, usually because of poor basic hygiene.
Doctors recommend hand washing, or proper diaper changing. Some of the literature that's being handed out - goes over that.
Officials have initiated a community wide hand-washing campaign, as well as encouraging doctors and nurses to collect and test stool samples. But, perhaps the most important form of prevention is excluding children who are symptomatic from school and daycare -- at the first sign of illness -- not waiting.
"So, parents are finding that their children are having lose stools but, who otherwise aren't acting sick, don't have highgrade fevers, don't seem fatigued. They've got to be mindful is symptomic of a diarrhea illness," says Dr. Stern.
Health officials say symptoms last anywhere from three to five days to weeks at a time. Children should be kept at home from school until they no longer show symptoms for at least 24 hours. For daycares, it could be much longer.