The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report April 3, 2015 that stated the drug-resistant Shigella sonnei had spread across the United States and Puerto Rico, resulting in 243 cases from May 2014 to February 2015. This bacteria has primarily been spread through international travel during the timeframe.
Shigella is a group of bacteria that causes the diarrheal disease shigellosis. Shigella sonnei is the most common species of Shigella found in the United States. Symptoms of Shigella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain.
Typically, the symptoms will last about five - seven days and the person will be able to make a full recovery with no extra treatment. Fluids and rest are recommended for mild cases. In more extreme cases, antibiotics are used to reduce the duration of the symptoms.
While antibiotics seem like an easy fix, Shigella has often shown to be resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, Shigella is globally resistant to ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and ciprofloxacin. All of these are considered traditional antibiotics to treat shigellosis.
Antibiotic resistance in a bacterial growth can either occur naturally or by genetic mutation. If some bacteria from the strain are able to survive the otherwise harmful antibiotic due to genetic mutation, they can then grow without dying from the medicine. The resistant bacteria can then spread by contaminated wind, water, surfaces or food.
This phenomenon makes it difficult to control the strain from traveling globally. Shigellosis is highly contagious. The CDC found that shigellosis cases found in Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts during May 2014 to February 2015 were 95 percent resistant to ciprofloxacin. New antibiotics will have to be developed in an attempt to curb any severe cases of the disease.
“Shigella causes an estimated 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the United States every year. It spreads easily and rapidly from person to person and through contaminated food and recreational water,” said CDC Press Officer Kate Fowlie.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Shigellosis. The CDC recommends thorough hand-washing with soap and hot water, especially before preparing food or after using the toilet. It is also recommended to avoid drinking water from ponds, lakes or untreated swimming pools.
Travelers are advised to strictly follow food and water precautions, as well as using bismuth subsalicylate (also known as pepto-bismol) for mild diarrhea. Antibiotics should be left for extreme cases.