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What restaurateurs should know about Shigella

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What should restaurants know about Shigella to protect their customers, staffs and business? Here’s a primer.

What is Shigella?

Unlike norovirus or the cause of the common cold, Shigella is a bacteria, not a virus, and hence usually susceptible to an array of familiar antibiotics.  Thousands of people are sickened every year by the pathogen, but most rebound after an illness of four to seven days. Fatalities are rare and largely limited to high-risk individuals like the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

How is it spread?

The, uh, sanitized answer is through poor hand washing after someone has used the bathroom. The more explicit explanation is the passing of fecal material containing the bacteria from one person to another, often through food.

What symptoms should I look for in employees?

An employee might be a carrier if he or she complains about severe diahrrea, vomiting and nausea, accompanied by a fever and acute abdominal cramps.

Why are contaminations spiking?

Health authorities have yet to cite a definitive reason. However, some studies have pointed to an increase in visits by travelers from abroad, and note that instances of shigellosis can be high among male homosexuals.

What can restaurateurs do to contend with it?

The fundamentals are key: Insist on frequent and effective hand washing by employees; send home anyone who’s sick; and alert local authorities if several guests reports being sickened after eating in the restaurant.

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