Shigella outbreaks often continue for months and are linked frequently to poor hygiene and hand washing. Such outbreaks are found often in day care facilities, but rarely are reported in schools. We present the investigation of an outbreak in autumn 2007 at a building that housed an elementary school and a middle school in separate wings in a small Texas city north of Dallas-Fort Worth.


We canvassed local hospitals, school attendance records, and physician offices for cases. Ill individuals were interviewed using a standard questionnaire for symptoms, disease onset, and the presence of the illness in an ill person’s household.


A music teacher was the index case for this outbreak of gastrointestinal illness caused by S. sonnei. Ten percent of the students in the school building were ill, and 15 households had secondary cases. Installing liquid soap in dispensers in student restrooms was the initial control measure, followed by sustained instruction in hand washing, scheduled hand washing times, and monitored cleaning and disinfection procedures for surfaces and inanimate objects. Enhanced surveillance detected no new cases in the school district.


Appropriate soap supplies and repeated instruction in hand washing and its monitoring were needed to control the outbreak.

Comment in

Importance of personal hygiene techniques in public health. [South Med J. 2012]

By Schulte JM1, Williams L, Asghar J, Dang T, Bedwell S, Guerrero K, Hamaker D, Stonecipher S, Zoretic J, Chow C.

Author information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.