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Wash Your Hands to Prevent Spread of Intestinal Illnesses

Cases of common gastrointestinal illnesses have risen in recent weeks in Northern Kentucky, with reports of E. coli, Campylobacteriosis and Salmonella in local residents.

All three illnesses can spread through contact with livestock, so the Northern Kentucky Health Department is reminding those who come into contact with animals to use extra caution this summer.

The rise has been most noticeable in cases of Campylobacteriosis. Since January, 35 cases of Campylobacteriosis have been reported in Northern Kentucky, compared to 18 cases reported between January and July of 2014. Reports of Salmonella and E. coli are also up this month, but rates of those illnesses have not yet surpassed 2014 levels.

Live animals may have germs in their droppings and on feathers, feet, skin and beaks—even if the animal appears healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants and soil. Additionally, the germs can be found on the hands, shoes and clothing of those who handle the animals or work or play near live animals.

“Whether it’s at a private home or a county fair, we often enjoy spending time around animals in the summer,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “These three illnesses are common in the summer, but prevention can be simple: Wash your hands after coming in contact with animals. If hand washing facilities aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.”

Further, do not take food or drinks into livestock areas, and be careful with baby items that might end up in the mouth, like pacifiers and bottles, when around livestock. Drinking milk that is pasteurized and thoroughly cooking meats is another important step in prevention of these types of illnesses.

Campylobacteriosis is one of the most common diarrheal illnesses in the U.S. It is typically spread through contaminated food, but can also be transmitted through contact with infected animals. It causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, fever and vomiting. The diarrhea may contain blood and mucus. Infected persons may show mild symptoms or may have no symptoms at all.

E. coli is a bacteria that often lives in the intestines of animals. It can be spread through unpasteurized dairy products and contact with infected animals. Symptoms of E. coli include severe, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

Salmonella can be spread through contact with infected poultry or reptiles, as well as by eating poultry that has not been cooked properly. The bacterial infection causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headache, fever and sometimes vomiting.

“In most people, these three bacteria will cause mild illness and resolve on their own within a few days, but more severe cases can lead to complications such as dehydration,” said Saddler. “People with chronic illnesses and young children are at an increased risk for more severe illnesses.”

For more information on Campylobacteriosis, E. coli and Salmonella, click here.

From the Nothern Kentucky Health Department/Photo: E. coli (via