A potluck birthday party in east Charlotte on June 30 has resulted in at least 40 people getting sick with a highly contagious disease known as shigellosis.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department suspected that one of the meals brought to the party was prepared by a person who did not wash his or her hands properly, contaminating the food with the human fecal matter. This person may have had shigellosis too, or touched surface contaminated with shigella germs. This is usually how the shigella bacteria are passed on.

Daniel Ortiz, Environmental Health director, has now warned people to be extra careful when preparing food for gatherings. Aside from washing hands before touching food, either when cooking or eating, it is also advisable to use separate utensils for each of the meal, cooked or raw.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shigellosis?

Symptoms of shigellosis are fever, stomach pain, and diarrhea. People who are sick with shigellosis will continue to have the bacteria in their feces while they continue to have diarrhea.

The germs may linger for up to a week or two after the diarrhea is gone. Worst, some people with shigellosis may not have symptoms but can pass the disease just the same.

About 100 people attended the said party in Charlotte and health officials expect that more people will turn up sick. Shigellosis is very contagious. It can infect people even at the slightest hint of the germs.

At least 19 people were already admitted to the hospital after the cookout. Carmel Clements, Communicable Disease Control director, said others may start exhibiting symptoms up until a week after they were infected.

While it's hard to track down which of the meals or who among the partygoers was responsible for the spread of disease, the investigations are still ongoing.

Proper Handwashing

Many diseases spread simply by not washing hands. It is not only important to know when to wash hands but it is also imperative to know how to wash the hands properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC recommends lathering the hands, including the back of hands when washing with clean water and soap. Be sure to scrub the skin in between each finger, including the thumbs, for at least 20 seconds or after humming the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Rinse the hands with running water and dry them using a clean towel or through air drying.

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