Grandmother speaks out about shigella

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GRAYSON CO, TX-Health officials said the number of confirmed shigella cases in Grayson County remains at 19, but they believe new cases reported over the weekend will be confirmed as well.

Julie Engel's granddaughter, Brianna, was confined in a Dallas hospital for almost a week after she was diagnosed with shigella, a bacterial infection of the digestive system. With Brianna's health already compromised, Engel said every day was a nightmare and she wants to share her experience to help protect others.

Friday, November 8th, Engel noticed her granddaughter, Brianna, wasn't feeling well.

"We just thought it was a bug. But Saturday afternoon, it just rapidly got worse. \She just started going like non stop and there's no in between then her heart rate went up," she said.

Brianna, who already suffers from several health problems, was rushed to Texoma Medical Center with 104 degree fever, a heart rate of 200 and suffering severe dehydration, all of which led to a seizure. Doctors were able to stabilize the 6-year-old and sent her over to Children's Medical Center in Dallas where her grandmother said she was diagnosed with shigella.

"What is going on? We've never heard of shigella. We had no idea what was going on," said Engel.

Engel learned it was a very contagious bacterial infection in the digestive system. While her granddaughter is slowly recovering with the help of antibiotics, Engel is still worried Brianna might get sick again when she returns to school at Hyde Park Elementary.

"It's scary because we don't know where she got it. You know she doesn't interact with a lot of other kids, none of the other kids in her class have it," she said.

Grayson County Health Department's Amanda Ortez said they can't confirm Brianna's case until they receive labwork from the hospital, but said it's likely that Brianna had shigella. Ortez also said there are no other confirmed cases of shigella at Denison ISD, but they're working with all the school districts in the county, including daycare centers, to keep an eye on the disease.

"We want these individuals, owners, operators, independent school districts to be aware that this is circulating. That they need to be on the lookout to make sure their nurses are aware to look for the signs consistent of shigella in their students," she said.

As of Monday, the number of cases was still 19, but Ortez said that could change in a matter of days.

"That case count could grow according to the number of reports that we've received over the weekend and then of course we have to follow up on those reports in order to consider them as a confirmed case," she said.

Ortez said they are still investigating where this shigella outbreak started. So far, they have no leads.

Health officials stressed the importance of washing your hands with soap and water frequently to avoid getting shigella. If you think you have the symptoms, contact your doctor.