Drug-Resistant Stomach Bug Spreading Throughout United States

Drug-Resistant Stomach Bug Spreading Throughout United States: ‘Serious Public Health Alert’ CDC Warns

An “extensively drug-resistant” stomach bug outbreak is spreading across the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling it a “serious public health alert.”

The CDC are warning of a nationwide spike in shigellosis, a highly contagious shigella bacterial infection attacks the intestines and causes inflammatory and bloody diarrhea, according to the the agency’s “emergency and preparedness response.”

Stomach Bug Kills 50,000 Kids Under The Age Of 5 Every Year, CDC Alerts Adults Of Spike In Infections

The bug reportedly typically affects children between the ages of 1 and 4, and kills 50,000 kids under the age of 5 every year.

Now, the CDC is alerting adults of the infection after reporting five percent of all infections in 2022 were extensively drug-resistant (XDR) – up from zero drug-resistant cases in 2015.

Every year, there are about 450,000 shigellosis infections nationwide, resulting in upwards of $93 million in direct medical costs, according to CDC data.

The infection is deemed XDR when antibiotics and other drugs typically used to treat it don’t work as intended.

“XDR shigellosis is resistant to all generally recommended antibiotics in the United States, making it difficult to treat,” according to the new report.

Infection Is Easily Transmissible, At-Risk Populations Include International Travelers, Homeless

The CDC added that XDR Shigella is very easily transmissible and can spread antimicrobial resistance genes to other bacteria.

Populations that are more at risk for contracting the illness include gay and bisexual men, unhoused people, international travelers and those living with HIV, according to the CDC.

“(Healthcare providers) should understand the nuances of testing and managing infections, especially when treating patients from populations at increased risk of drug-resistant shigellosis including: young children; gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; people experiencing homelessness; international travelers; and people living with HIV.”

Shigellosis Is Second Leading Cause Of Death Due To Diarrheal Infection In Young Children Worldwide

As previously stated, children under 5 years old, and especially those in daycare or school environs, are typically the most at risk of contracting the bug. Shigellosis is the second leading cause of death due to diarrheal infection in young children worldwide.

Travelers to places “where water and food may be unsafe and sanitation is poor” similarly place themselves at an additional risk of contracting shigellosis.

The CDC went on to state that any medical professionals treating XDR shigellosis “should consult with a specialist knowledgeable in treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria to determine the best treatment options.”

Several large Shigella outbreaks have been traced to food contaminated by ill food handlers. Shigella outbreaks have also been caused by fresh produce, such as tomatoes, contaminated in fields or elsewhere in production or distribution before being sold to consumers, according to a food safety law firm.

Timing Of Shigellosis Outbreak Comes Amidst More Mainstream Stomach Flu Season, Data Shows

The timing of this most recent outbreak comes amidst the more mainstream stomach flu season, a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that’s caused by norovirus infection, prompting days of vomiting, diarrhea and fever in children and adults.

The bug could even lead to death if left untreated.

The Midwestern U.S. is currently experiencing the most severe impact this norovirus season with a testing positivity rate of 19.48 percent as of Feb. 4.

That figure already exceeds last year’s high of 16.12 percent, which was recorded late in the season on April 2, 2022, per the CDC’s NoroSTAT.


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