Marc Edwards: Wash hands to stop Shigellosis outbreak

Published: Oct. 12, 2016 at 12:18 PM EDT
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UPDATE: (10/14/16) - A plea from the top researcher in Flint's water emergency - Marc Edwards says people need to start washing their hands properly to stop the spread of a serious stomach illness.

Cases of Shigellosis are at a record high in Genesee County. The infection, that can land you in the hospital, is spread through feces.

Edwards says proper hand washing can stop the spread, but not everyone is trusting of tap water, even for hand washing.

"What we've seen in Flint is a fear of doing exactly what you need to do to stop this outbreak," Edwards said.

Edwards says hand sanitizer or wipes aren't a replacement for washing hands with warm soapy water for about 20 seconds.

A team with the Centers for Disease Control are now on the ground in Flint investigating the 85 cases - and counting - in Genesee County.

With public opinion still critical of water quality, researchers are working to see if the spike is linked to the water itself.

Edwards told ABC12 News over the phone on Friday that it's unlikely.

"The vast majority of cases have been traced to folks who have been handling diapers. This is a very common source," Edwards said.

However, even he won't rule out anything at this point until science can speak for itself.

"We here at Virginia Tech University are continuing to keep an open mind and look into this," Edwards said.


(10/12/16) - This week, the Centers for Disease Control is expected to investigate skyrocketing cases of Shigella, caused by bacteria.

The Genesee County Health Department tells us Shigella cases are up because people are afraid to wash in Flint water.

In the past year, 75 cases of Shigella have been reported - which is six times the typical number of cases.

The state has made a formal request for federal help to find out what's behind the spread of the bacteria.

The Genesee County Health Department believes the bacteria has spread from Flint to Saginaw County; there is an increase in Shigella cases there, too.