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‘Cluster’ of illness under investigation at Edmonton-area school

This micrograph reveals the first stage of shigellosis as it progresses; by this stage, the Shigella sp. bacteria have penetrated the intestinal mucosa.
This micrograph reveals the first stage of shigellosis as it progresses; by this stage, the Shigella sp. bacteria have penetrated the intestinal mucosa. Getty Images

EDMONTON — Alberta Health Services says it is investigating a “cluster of diarrheal illness” among students at an Edmonton-area school.

In an email to Global News Saturday, Kerry Williamson with AHS said there have been two lab-confirmed cases of shigella, a bacteria closely related to salmonella. He said other cases of diarrhea are being investigated, but at this point it’s not known if they are related.

“Lab-confirmed shigella is not as common as salmonella but not uncommon,” he said. “It is usually spread through a contaminated food source or infected food handler, or from person to person in households once one member is infected.”

Williamson did not say which school the illnesses are linked to or how many students may have been infected.

Williamson said the investigation is looking at all possible sources of illness.

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There are typically about 40 cases of shigella in the Edmonton Zone each year, according to Williamson.

Doctors are reminding everyone to wash their hands after using the washroom and before handling food.