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Health Department issues shigellosis advisory

The Kansas City, Mo., Health Department continues to investigate a sharp increase in the number of shigellosis cases in Kansas City. Health officials are concerned that the number will continue to rise without rapid intervention through public awareness and action.

The number of cases reported among Kansas City, Mo., residents has reached 123, with 99 of these cases diagnosed since May 1. Similar increases in shigellosis cases have been identified throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area in both Missouri and Kansas.

Shigella is transmitted by direct or indirect fecal-oral contact with a symptomatic patient. Shigella may also be transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water. The elderly, children, and malnourished people are most susceptible to the disease and may have more severe illnesses.

The Health Department is encouraging citizens to watch for 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 time period from exposure to shigella bacteria to the development of symptoms is usually between one and three days, but can range from 12-96 hours. People are contagious to others from the time they begin to feel ill until the time there are no more shigella organisms in their stools. Treatment with the appropriate medicine can reduce the amount of time shigella is in the stool. Untreated, shigella organisms can remain in the stool for four weeks or more.

The following measures should be taken to prevent shigella infection:

    Wash your hands frequently, thoroughly and correctly with soap and warm water. This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. For smaller children, educate them regarding proper hand washing techniques and supervise hand washing.

    Dispose of diapers from infected children correctly. The diapers should be put in a leak-proof container with a closed lid. Caregivers must wash their hands carefully with soap and water after changing or disposing of the diapers. Diaper changing areas should be disinfected with household bleach or bactericidal wipes.

    Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.

    Children and adults with diarrhea should remain out of public and private swimming pools, saunas or spas for two weeks following the end of diarrhea.

    Do not wade in public fountains at any time.

    Refrain from preparing food or beverages (at home or in a restaurant) if you have diarrhea.

    If you have shigella-like symptoms, seek medical attention.

More information about shigella is available on the Health Department’s Web page,, or by contacting your local public health department.

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