Battling third largest outbreak in the nation, county officials release shigella policy to schools

When it comes to shigella — a highly-contagious bacteria that causes dysentery — Grayson County is now dealing with one of the three worst outbreaks in the United States. Only Cabbarrus County in North Carolina and Woodbury-Plymouth counties in Iowa have confirmed more cases of shigellosis than Grayson’s 102 since the outbreak began in October.

In an effort to finally end the outbreak that has vexed local health officials for more than three months now, the Grayson County Health Department on Thursday planned to release a set of guidelines to local schools outlining the conditions of re-admittance for children who have contracted the disease.

“(It’s a question of) how strict are you at keeping these kids out, and what tests do you make them go through,” said County Health Authority Jerry Bennett. “How much is too much in terms of trying to protect the community without being too onerous?”

Grayson County Health Director John Teel said the guidelines represent a sort of grand compromise between the interests of families who want their kids in school and the interests of a community desperate to put this health crisis behind it.

“The medical community is helping us greatly with the Shigella outbreak, but there are so many different ramifications about which kid, where do they go to school, what are the symptoms,” said Teel. “We want these kids educated, and so do the parents. But we also would like to stop the third-largest Shigella outbreak in the United States.”


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