Severe Strain of Dysentery Traced to Mexican Resort

From Associated Press

An estimated 500 Americans came home from Cancun, Mexico, last year with a severe form of dysentery that sent some of them to the hospital for a month, according to a U.S. government study.

The disease was caused by a strain of bacteria almost identical to one that infected 500,000 people in Central America between 1969 and 1972, killing 20,000, said Dr. Julie Parsonnet of Stanford University.

“This is one of the most infectious organisms there is” and one “with a very high hospitalization rate,” she said Tuesday at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, where she presented the results of an investigation of the 1988 Cancun epidemic.

The occurrence of the epidemic raises concern that the disease, which tends to peak every 25 years or so, may be on the rise again in Mexico and Central America, she said.

She said that Americans should not cancel trips to Cancun, a popular resort, because of the epidemic. “The risk of getting this illness is extremely small,” she said.


Tourists who do visit Cancun should take the precautions recommended for all visitors to Mexico, she said--don’t drink water or beverages with ice and avoid uncooked foods.

Parsonnet said the exact source of the Shigella dysenteriae infection could not be identified.