Diarrheal Disease among Care-Givers at Children's Day- Care Centers
S. Koton, D. Cohen, M.S. Green
Israel Center for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Gertner Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer; Medical Corps, Israel Defense Forces; Dept. of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine; Sakler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Diarrheal disease tends to spread from infected children to their families. Due to the increased risk of exposure, children's caregivers in day-care centers may have a higher incidence of diarrhea, particularly when caring for very young children. We therefore examined the incidence of diarrhea and antibodies to Shigella among caregivers in day-care centers, according to age groups of children in their care (<18, 18-34, and >35 months) and in comparison with the general population. 2 studies with a retrospective cohort and seroepidemiological cross-sectional design were carried out. Questionnaires were completed by 401 caregivers in 36% of all WIZO day-care centers. As a measure of past exposure to Shigella, levels of S. sonnei and S. flexneri antibodies were examined in the blood of 110 caregivers (ELISA method).
There was a higher incidence of diarrhea among young children, increasing the potential exposure to diarrheal agents among their caregivers. Nevertheless, no statistically significant differences in diarrhea incidence were found among caregivers of the various age groups during the previous year (p=0.768) and during the previous month (p=0.319), nor in absenteeism due to diarrhea during the last month (p=0.761). Levels of Shigella antibodies were similar among caregivers in all 3 groups. Diarrheal incidence was higher among women in the population control group than among caregivers during the previous year (p=0.005) and month (p=0.067). No statistically significant differences in levels of S. sonnei and S. flexneri antibodies were found between caregivers and women in the control group.
There was no evidence that diarrhea is an occupational hazard for caregivers of young children. An explanation may be the development of protective immunity against common diarrheal agents due to recurrent exposure.