Health officials in Kansas City, MO are advising the public to take precautions to prevent infection with the gastrointestinal bug, Shigella, as the city is reported a huge increase in cases in 2015.

Shigella image/CDC
Shigella image/CDC

The Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department notes that in the typical year, the city sees some 10 cases of Shigella infection; however, since January 1, 2015, the department has investigated more than 143 cases with the majority of cases in children in daycare and elementary schools.

“What is also concerning is that that we are seeing three different strains that are resistant to certain antibiotics,” said Tiffany Wilkinson, Acting Communicable Disease Prevention Division Manager.

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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