An outbreak of shigellosis at an outdoor music festival

Am J Epidemiol. 1991 Mar 15;133(6):608-15. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a115933.


In August 1988, an estimated 3,175 women who attended a 5-day outdoor music festival in Michigan became ill with gastroenteritis caused by Shigella sonnei. Onset of illness peaked 2 days after the festival ended, and patients were spread throughout the United States by the time the outbreak was recognized. An uncooked tofu salad served on the last day was implicated as the outbreak vehicle (odds ratio = 3.4, p less than 0.0001). Over 2,000 volunteer food handlers prepared the communal meals served during the festival. This large foodborne outbreak had been heralded by a smaller outbreak of shigellosis among staff shortly before the festival began and by continued transmission of shigellosis from staff to attendees during the festival. S. sonnei isolated from women who became ill before, during, and after the festival had identical antimicrobial susceptibility patterns and plasmid profiles. Limited access to soap and running water for handwashing was one of the few sanitary deficits noted at this gathering. This investigation demonstrates the need for surveillance and prompt public health intervention when Shigella infections are recognized in persons attending mass outdoor gatherings, the singular importance of handwashing in reducing secondary transmission of shigellosis, and the potential for explosive outbreaks when communal meals are prepared by large numbers of food handlers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Camping*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dysentery, Bacillary / epidemiology*
  • Dysentery, Bacillary / etiology
  • Dysentery, Bacillary / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Food Handling / standards*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Hand Disinfection / standards
  • Holidays
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Music
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Shigella sonnei*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Toilet Facilities / standards
  • Water Microbiology