Health officials in Okaloosa County, Florida have noticed an unusual trend this year. Instead of the average three Shigella infections the county sees each year, a full 73 cases have been reported since the beginning of 2012. The Okaloosa County Health Department issued its initial warning to the public in early August, at which time an alarming 49 Shigella infections had been reported since the beginning of the year. That number has risen significantly over the past two months. “We’ve had a total of 73 reported shigella cases this year, through today, but we were not able to determine a source of the outbreak,” a spokesperson for OCDH told Food Safety News Wednesday. The health department is asking residents to help prevent the spread of infection and to report any illnesses. The agency has posted a notification on its website urging people to see a healthcare provider if they experience symptoms of shigellosis which include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Illness generally begins within one to three days of infection. Most people recover completely within four to seven days. OCHD is also providing advice to prevent the spread of infection. “People with diarrhea should stay home from work or school for at least one full calendar day after symptoms stop,” says the agency. “People who have diarrhea should not prepare food or drinks for others.” Other recommendations from the health department include: – Clean hands often. Wash kitchen utensils, plates, cutting boards, and counter surfaces during and after food preparation – Cook meat and eggs thoroughly. – Wash raw fruits and vegetables. – Chill (refrigerate) promptly. – Separate; don’t cross-contaminate foods – Drink only from safe water supplies. Boil water, if in doubt. Image from Okaloosa County Health Department