Public health professionals urge handwashing as shigella cases rise and flu season starts in KC metro

Health
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cases of shigella continue to climb in the metro while flu season is getting started. Those germs will have more chances to spread at Thanksgiving, so public health professionals offered a chance to see how germs can be stopped.

Denesha Snell of the Kansas City Health Department dropped some fake germs on FOX 4 medical reporter Meryl Lin McKean’s hand. They show up as white under a black light. Then she washed with soap and water. The germs were gone.

“You’ve done a really, really good job,” said Snell.

There were no germs on the towel either. Then she tried the same thing with hand sanitizer. Germs still showed up. It’s a reminder that nothing beats soap and water.

“The sanitizers are better than nothing, but only if you have no other availability,” said Dr. Rex Archer, health department director.

Dr. Archer is putting the spotlight on handwashing as we gather along with germs for Thanksgiving. There have been 564 reported cases of shigella, a diarrheal illness, so far this year in the metro.

“And that’s probably only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Archer.

The number is still climbing. The bacteria enter through the mouth off of food or your hands. When food is passed around, “Everybody is touching that serving spoon so everybody needs to wash their hands before they sit down to the meal or one person could be infecting everybody.”

Dr. Archer also says it’s a good idea to have a separate hand towel for everyone. It takes as few as 10 of the shigella organisms to cause an infection.

Thorough handwashing can also help prevent flu. There have been 76 reported cases so far this fall in the metro. Dr. Archer also reminds you to get vaccinated now.

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