- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The San Francisco Department of Public Health reports a significant increase in the number of cases of a highly contagious bacterial illness in the city, especially among homeless people.

The department usually logs between five and 10 cases of Shigella each month. But between Dec. 1 and 23 there were 65 confirmed cases, the department reports. Among those cases, about 40 percent are in homeless people.

Shigella usually causes diarrhea that lasts a few days. It can rarely cause more serious illness.

The health department is urging people to help prevent the spread of the bacteria with regular hand washing.

The health department issued a health alert this week to health care providers outlining the situation and providing testing and treatment information. It is also doing outreach to homeless people about how to stay well.

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