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SAN DIEGO — Earlier this week, San Diegans learned that the county is monitoring an outbreak of shigellosis — an illness that’s so far been found in at least seven local people experiencing homelessness.

For the unfamiliar: The infections are caused by the bacteria Shigella, and typically cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever. The bacteria is closely related to E. coli, according to UCSD Infectious Disease Expert and Professor Dr. Victor Nizet, who spoke with FOX 5 this week.

Shigellosis is contagious but not usually lethal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It typically spreads through contaminated surfaces, food or water, but also sometimes person-to-person.

With word of the local cases, and the possibility that it could affect more people in the community, the city and county government are collaborating on the following series of preventative measures, listed in a written update shared with media Thursday:

  • Adding temporary hand washing stations and portable bathrooms to areas where many people are living on the street or in vehicles
  • Increasing sidewalk sanitations across the city
  • Sending notifications about shigellosis cases to “service providers, outreach teams, and other entities who work closely with unsheltered residents,” such as local shelters
  • Sending county public health nurses to San Diego shelters
  • Posting signs about the threat of shigellosis in shelters
  • Increasing hygiene and sanitation measures at shelters
  • Sending homeless outreach teams to distribute hygiene kits, including educational materials
  • Hosting calls with homeless service providers to answer questions and provide guidance

“Protecting the health and safety of our residents – especially those who are unsheltered and particularly vulnerable – is our foremost priority,” County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Todd Gloria said in a joint statement. “We do not want this to descend into a public-health crisis, so our teams are taking swift action now to help prevent widespread transmission.”

You can learn more on the CDC website.