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Dozens Ill After Shigellosis Outbreak in Walmart Cafeteria

Dozens of employees at Walmart home office in Bentonville are overcoming an outbreak of Shigellosis, according to the State Health Department.
Dozens of employees at Walmart home office in Bentonville are overcoming an outbreak of Shigellosis according to the State Health Department.

It's a highly contagious bacterial infection that's been traced back to the Walmart cafeteria.

"It could be the biggest outbreak we've seen particularly in adults this year," Cathy Flanagin with the Arkansas Department of Health said.

The Arkansas Department of Health confirming the bacteria Shigella is to blame for the outbreak of food poisoning at the Walmart home office cafeteria this week.

"The investigation could take um certainly several more days because we are in the process of investigating the number of potential cases right now," Flanagin said.

According to Dr. Bruce Waldon, the Chief Medical Officer at Northwest Health Systems, they've seen several patients with Shigella symptoms.

He said the infection is typically seen in people with weakened immune systems.

"It's most commonly seen in children. It's more common in daycare centers. We also see it in any type of confined living situations such as long term care homes or nursing homes," Dr. Waldon said.

There are about 500,000 cases of Shigellosis reported in the US every year. So while it's not rare, it is highly contagious for 2 to 3 weeks, even after symptoms have ended.

"What we call fecal oral transmission. People don't wash their hands after they use the restroom, it's passed through the stool, they, they don't wash their hands, they get it on their hands, and then they pass it to other, other people," Dr. Waldon said.

The food court restaurant in question is Salsarita's, a Mexican food bar operated by Eurest.

"So far that does seem to be where most people say that they had eaten before they became ill," Flanagin said.

As the investigation continues to find out how many people have been infected and what exactly caused the outbreak, both Dr. Waldon and the health department agree washing your hands is the best defense.

"Like any other infectious disease prevention, it all starts with good hand washing," Dr. Waldon said.

"Generally with good hygiene practices that should not be something people worry about," Flanagin said.

If you do start feeling queasy, the way you can tell it's something more serious than a typical tummy ache, is running a fever, or bloody stool.

"Just use common sense, don't be afraid to go out and eat don't be afraid to eat things that you normally eat, wash your hands, know the signs and symptoms of of of food poisoning, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps. If those things occur and persist, contact your physician and let them help you make that decision as to what you need to do," Dr. Waldon said.


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