The Saint Louis County Department of Health has received 71 case reports of shigellosis in the area since the start of the year. During this same time period in 2013, only two such cases were reported. The department is strongly urging residents to take preventative steps to stop the spread of the disease.

St. Louis Gateway Arch Image/USAF
St. Louis Gateway Arch

“All of us can play an important role is preventing the spread of shigellosis,” said Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, director of the Saint Louis County Department of Health. “We urge parents, daycare providers, the medical community, and the general public to follow all the basic precautions needed to stop more infections from occurring.”

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection that frequently affects children in daycare settings. The primary symptom is diarrhea, but other symptoms can include stomach cramping, nausea, fever, and vomiting.

A large proportion of the cases reported so far this year have occurred among the staff and attendees of daycare centers and their families. Infections are highly contagious, spreading easily among children, staff, and families.

The department is recommending residents immediately take the following basic precautions to stop the spread of shigellosis in the community:

  • The most important step to prevent the spread of shigellosis is proper hand washing, particularly after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before and after eating.
  • Parents should make sure children with diarrhea do not attend daycare, see their medical provider, and remain at home until released to return to daycare by the department of health.
  • Daycare operators should exclude ill children and staff from attendance or work. Every effort should be made to maintain the highest level of sanitation in each center by reinforcing the need for frequent hand washing and for the careful attention to disinfection of toys and surfaces, particularly around diapering areas.
  • If a person has been ill, he or she should refrain from recreational water venues for one week after all symptoms resolve.
  • Food handlers should be excluded from work during an illness and until released to return to work by the department of health.
  • Physicians are urged to be aware that children who attend daycare, their families, and daycare employees are at risk of shigellosis at this time. If a healthcare provider suspects a diagnosis of shigellosis, it should be reported immediately to the Saint Louis County Department of Health by calling 314-615-1630 so that measures to prevent the spread can be rapidly undertaken.

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