MIDLAND, Texas — The shigella stomach bacteria has been crossing the nation recently, and has been gaining resistances to the common antibiotics that are used to treat it.
The bacteria causes a disease called shigellosis, which is another name for the disease known as dysentery.
Since 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen shigella bacteria's resistances rise as the years progress.
Tyler Collins, an epidemiologist with the Midland Health Department, helped explain what the CDC found in their research.
“So the CDC has done testing to see, how frequently, much of the virus is antibiotic resistant," Collins said. "Most of the circulating virus is about 5% of cases reported to the CDC that are antibiotic resistant.”
The most common way to catch the virus is to touch a surface that is contaminated with the virus, then touch any part of your face, particularly the mouth.
“You can primarily get the infection through what we call the 'fecal oral' route," Collins said. "So, someone that is infected, passes it in their stool, and then maybe doesn’t wash their hands very well, contaminates the surface, you touch it and then maybe touch your mouth.”
Some of the people who are most at risk of catching the disease are young children under 5 and international travelers, especially travelers who come from countries with poor sanitation.
"Maybe they don’t practice good enough bathroom hygiene, or frequently putting things in their mouth that might be contaminated," Collins said about children who may catch the bug. "The other people who are affected are international travelers to places with poor sanitation, people experiencing homelessness or men who have sex with men.”
If you catch the disease, the symptoms will normally last around five to seven days, but last longer in extreme cases.
While those symptoms may be unpleasant, they are not fatal.
"The primary symptom is diarrhea that can be prolonged or bloody in severe cases," Collins said. "Also, you’re gonna have a fever, stomach pain and then you may also have a need to pass stool, but your bowels are empty.”
You can keep yourself protected by practicing good hygiene. If you do catch the shigella bacteria and suffer symptoms, it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. It is also possible to purchase anti-diarrhea medicine to treat symptoms.
The CDC reports that they see nearly 450,000 cases per year, but the Midland Health Department says they have only seen nine laboratory cases confirmed in the past two years.