Cases of a nasty infectious diarrheal disease called shigellosis now total more than 200 in the Kansas City area, health officials said Wednesday.
The number of confirmed cases in Kansas City stands at 190, up from 143 reported a week ago, according to the Kansas City Health Department. The Independence Health Department reports 13 cases.
Kansas City typically sees about 10 shigellosis cases per year, Independence three to five cases.
No cases have been reported to the Johnson County Health Department.
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Shigella bacteria are transmitted by people who have symptoms, including abdominal pain or cramps, fever, watery diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Young children may suffer convulsions.
Left untreated, people can remain infectious four weeks or longer. Treatment with antibiotics can reduce that time to a few days.
Health officials say that meticulous hygiene, including washing hands frequently and disinfecting diaper changing areas, is essential to keep the disease from spreading.
The shigellosis outbreak appears to have started about July. Most cases have been among older preschoolers in day care and younger students in elementary schools, as well as among the adult caregivers of those children, said Bill Snook of the Kansas City Health Department.
About 20 to 25 students at Faxon Elementary School were out sick this week with symptoms consistent with shigellosis, but there have not been any confirmed cases, Kansas City Public Schools spokesman Ray Weikal said.
Snook said the health department doesn’t have laboratory evidence that would confirm any of the illnesses at Faxon Elementary have been shigellosis. Several intestinal infections, including norovirus, have symptoms like those of shigellosis, Snook said. Unless a patient’s doctor orders tests, it’s not possible to confirm the cause.
Snook said the health department’s recommendations to keep illness from spreading apply to both kinds of infections.
“We are very vigilant that our students and staff are practicing good hygiene, washing hands,” he said. “And we’re reinforcing that parents should keep their kids home if they have symptoms.”