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Shigella cases on the rise

The Health Department is investigating an increase in the number of shigella cases in Kansas City. Health officials are concerned that the number could continue to rise without public awareness and action.

Shigella is transmitted by direct or indirect fecal-oral contact with a symptomatic patient. Shigella also may be transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water. Adults and children can be affected and the elderly and malnourished also are susceptible.

The Health Department is encouraging everyone to be alert to the following symptoms:

    Loose stools of small volume accompanied by nausea and fever

    Stools which contain blood and/or mucus

    Vomiting, stomach cramps and a painful urgent but ineffectual attempt to urinate or defecate

    Convulsions (most commonly found in young children)

The incubation period for shigella ranges from one to three days but can also range from 12-96 hours. A person infected with shigella is infectious from the time they begin having the acute illness until there is no presence of shigella in the stool. Untreated, organisms can remain in the stool for four weeks or more. Patients treated with appropriate antimicrobials may have stool carriage of shigella reduced to a few days.

When a patient is diagnosed with shigella, advise them to:

    Wash their hands frequently, thoroughly and correctly with soap and warm water. For smaller children, educate them regarding proper hand washing techniques and supervise hand washing.

    Return to work or school only after the child has taken five days of antibiotics or until two successive stool cultures have been negative for shigella or until diarrhea and systemic symptoms have resolved.

    Dispose of diapers from infected children correctly. The diapers should be put in a closed-lid garbage can and hands should be washed carefully with soap and water after changing or disposing of the diapers. Diaper changing areas should be disinfected with household bleach, Lysol or bactericidal wipes.

    Practice basic food safety precautions.

    Keep children and adults with diarrhea out of swimming pools, saunas or spas and for two weeks following the end of diarrhea. This is critical with swimming pools opening for the summer.

More information about shigella is available on the Health Department’s Web page (

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