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SAN DIEGO — Local health experts say the public should be aware of the recent Shigella outbreak among at least six people within San Diego’s homeless community. 

UCSD Infectious Disease Expert and Professor Dr. Victor Nizet said the infection typically presents with abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever. It’s closely related to E. coli. 

He said while the disease typically isn’t serious, it can be in vulnerable populations, such as the very young and old, and immunocompromised.

“Then you can have a disease called dysentery which is just basically a more severe form where there’s damage to the lining of your gut,” Nizet said. “The diarrhea can have blood in it, the abdominal cramping can be very severe.”

He said the public should not be alarmed, but rather aware that the disease is out there.

He said Shigella spreads very easily, commonly through contaminated surfaces, raw food and water. It also only takes a small amount of bacteria to make someone sick. Meaning it’s important to spread the word when an outbreak happens, especially in vulnerable communities.

“What we might learn is that there are some other people who have had a stomach bug that they may have been writing off as just a flu or something they could handle on their own, but if it truly is Shigella then they’re at risk of spreading it to their family and friends,” he said.

If you think you have symptoms of Shigella, you’re asked to contact your doctor.