Health Officials Investigating Shigellosis Outbreak at Wake Robin

News Release

For Immediate Release: November 6, 2018

Media Contact:
Ben Truman
Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281


Health Officials Investigating Shigellosis Outbreak at Wake Robin

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with the Wake Robin retirement community in Shelburne to respond to an outbreak of extensively drug resistant (XDR) Shigella sonnei infections.

Shigella is a type of bacteria that can make people sick with diarrhea, stomach cramps, and sometimes a fever. As of November 6, 22 cases have been confirmed by testing at the Health Department Laboratory, and an additional 44 probable cases have been reported, all among Wake Robin staff, residents, and visitors.

The Health Department began its investigation on October 18 and notified CDC of the outbreak on October 22. On October 30, the department activated its Health Operations Center to support and coordinate the efforts of infectious disease epidemiology, environmental health, and laboratory staff. CDC is assisting and supporting the Health Department in its work to identify additional cases and routes of transmission. CDC is also helping to recommend treatment alternatives and prevention and control measures at Wake Robin.

Shigellosis spreads very easily from person to person, as it takes only a small number of Shigella bacteria to cause the illness. The source of the outbreak has not been identified. In general, transmission of Shigella occurs when people swallow or put something in their mouth that has been in contact with feces of a person who is sick with the illness. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms but can still pass the bacteria on to others.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said the outbreak has slowed with no new onsets of illness since November first, but encouraged people to take careful precautions to prevent further spread. “Wake Robin has been a good partner in responding to this outbreak,” said Dr. Levine. “We will continue our investigation and are working closely with people who may have been exposed, and with their contacts, to be sure they are tested and receive any needed treatment.”

Dr. Levine said that CDC is assisting due to the antibiotic-resistant nature of this particular bacteria. “Antibiotic resistance means that the bacteria have developed the ability to prevent antibiotics from working. When bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, the treatment we would normally use may not work, and the bacteria can continue to multiply,” said Dr. Levine. “Fortunately, most people who get this will recover in five to seven days without the need for treatment.”

The best way to avoid getting sick from Shigella and other infections is to wash hands well with soap and water throughout the day, and especially at certain times, like after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, before preparing food and before eating.

For more information about Shigella:

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