Zephyrhills students test positive for Shigella

- A private school in Zephyrhills is battling an outbreak of Shigella, which can lead to dysentery.

The Pasco County Health Department says more than 20 students at Heritage Academy are being examined to see if they have the bacteria. The students who have it are not being allowed back until they have two negative tests.

Jessica Duncan's son is one of those being tested. After a positive test for Shigella on Wednesday, she got a call that he was negative this time.

"One more test, and he has to pop negative for that one too," she said.

Between August 26 and September 7, the school says three kids have tested positive for diarrhea-causing Shigella. The health department says 21 others are being examined with the same symptoms.

"I am very concerned," said Duncan. "It's not something a child should have to deal with. I would never have thought it would happen to my kid."

The health department says it is working with school administrators on cleaning the school of the bacteria, which is passed from fecal matter to children's mouths and then from person to person.

The three definite cases are in the pre-school, but Duncan's son is 13.

"I want them to clean it up, figure out where it is coming from, and take care of it so no one else gets sick," said Duncan.

FOX 13's Dr. Joette Giovinco says not all who are infected are aware, and that kids are most likely to get it. She says parents should make sure their kids are washing hands frequently.

"And not just washing your hands, you need to sing that happy birthday song a few times and also get underneath the fingernails, In addition you want to make sure you clean toys or anything that is shared between some of the younger, pre-school type children in your home," Dr. Giovinco said.

The school released a statement to FOX 13 saying they are cooperating fully with the health department. The health department says the last positive test came on September 7, but not all of the kids are back to school yet.

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