CDC: Large number of patients with shigella found in Mass.

This illustration made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the Shigella bacteria. On Thursday, April 2, 2015, the CDC said a drug-resistant strain of a stomach bug made its way into the U.S. and spread, causing more than 200 illnesses since last May. Many cases were traced to people who had recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, India or other countries. (AP Photo/CDC)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Public health officials are warning a nasty stomach bug is spreading in the U.S., and we’re seeing most of the cases here in Massachusetts.

On Friday, 22News spoke with Dr. Niels Rathlev, the Chair of the Emergency Department at the Baystate Medical Center, who clarified what this bacteria infection is and what it can do.

Shigella is a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms: fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, and dirreah. The Centers for Disease Control has found some of the biggest clusters are here in Massachusetts, but there’s a bigger problem.

Dr. Niels Rathlev told 22News, “Most illness due to Shigella is relatively self-limited and not serious, but there are certain strains which we found out in California where they’re resistant to most antibiotics, and that’s a real concern.”

90% of samples tested resisted the antibiotic Cipro, the first line of defense in treating adults with Shigella.

Dr. Rathlev told 22News what happens if antibiotics don’t work. “The big problem with this is dehydration where patients continue to lose fluids through vomiting, and eventually they have to be replete in the hospital in the emergency department with IV fluids.”

Shigella was once easy to treat with antibiotics. But now, the CDC is worried that the strains that resist antibiotics are being carried here by travelers coming to the U.S. – and those strains are spreading.

Some Shigella strains arrived in the U.S. in people traveling from India and the Dominican Republic. Shigella is spread through sharing foods, and from hand-to-mouth contact.

Western Mass residents say they’re a little more concerned now that Shigella could be disguised as the flu. “It does worry me because I do have grandkids,” says Tony Pacheco of Springfield. “Not so much for the adults but for the kids, being that they go to school and daycare or wherever, it’s very easy for them to spread that around.”

Doctors say if anyone in your household has the flu or Shigella, wash your hands, do not cook for each other, and use different bathrooms.

Only your doctor can tell you if your symptoms are because of the flu or Shigella.

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