Health authorities are conducting an investigation into cases of Shigella in Santa Clara County

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is investigating several cases of Shigella among individuals experiencing homelessness.

Shigella is a highly contagious bacterium known to cause diarrhea and, in severe cases, more serious illness, according to health officials.

“Shigella is an extremely infectious disease,” explained Dr. Monika Roy, Assistant Health Officer at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “It only takes a small amount of the organism to cause illness, making it easily transmissible.”

Between June 3 and June 17, three confirmed cases have been identified, with an additional four individuals being investigated to determine if their Shigella infections are connected to these cases. Furthermore, there are 18 suspected cases under investigation.

Most of the reported cases have been linked to individuals residing at Columbus Park in San Jose. The city has responded by installing additional portable public toilets and hand-washing stations.

“We are providing drinking water and washing facilities to help individuals maintain hygiene and prevent further transmission,” stated Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager of San Jose.

The health department emphasized that Shigella can spread through consuming contaminated food or water, direct contact with an infected person, or contact with contaminated surfaces.

According to the health department, most healthy individuals will recover from the infection without needing treatment, and the department stated that the risk to the general public is minimal.

Public health nurses and doctors from the county are actively visiting encampments to educate homeless residents with the goal of preventing further spread.

“We are making intensive efforts to distribute testing kits to all these individuals and collect them back, but it’s proving challenging,” Roy commented. “Identifying every potentially affected person will be difficult.”

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