The number of shigellosis cases in the Kansas City, MO metro area has topped 400 cases, according to a local media report Friday. This is more than double the number of cases reported just one month ago.

Jackson County, MO/David Benbennick
Jackson County, MO/David Benbennick

On Thursday, the Jackson County Health Department (JCHD) reported more than 60 cases of Shigella mostly in the month of October. The county typically sees fewer than 10 cases each year. JCHD covers areas outside of Kansas City.

Clusters of Shigella have been reported in elementary schools and day care centers across the area.

Shigellosis is spread from person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. The bacteria can be transferred easily among children because of their poor hand washing habits and tendency to put things in their mouths. People can also become infected by consuming food or drinks prepared by an infected person or handling or cleaning up feces.

Because Shigella is resistant to gastric acid, a person can get infected with as little as 10 organisms.

Symptoms usually begin 24 to 72 hours after exposure and last about four to seven days without treatment; however, severe infections may require antibiotics.

The CDC offers the following recommendations for preventing the spread of Shigella: Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages; Dispose of soiled diapers properly; Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them; Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings; Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet; Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea and avoid swallowing water fromponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

Every year, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

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