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Shigella on the rise, 150 cases confirmed in KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Medical professionals and the city health department are warning the public about a significant increase in Shigella; an illness that causes high fever and abdominal problems.

The Kansas City Health Department put out new numbers on Friday, explaining that the city normally sees 10  cases of Shigella a year. So far in 2015, there have already been 150 reported cases. From January 1 to July 1 this year, there were 16 reported cases. In the past two months, 134 additional cases. That total, 150, is 15-times the annual average.

Shigella is an infectious bacterial illness that causes high-spiking fever, upward of 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Doctors say Shigella can also cause seizures. Though adults are also susceptible, the majority of the patients are children. Many cases have been reported in daycares and elementary schools.

Doctors say symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. They say antibiotic treatment will help, though it requires culture testing to determine which kind of medicine is needed.

"We always develop resistance to different bacterial organisms so it's really important that we are able to identify what type of Shigella it is and how to treat it best," Scott Dattel, M.D., said.

"What we are seeing with this which is unusual is we're seeing three different patterns of resistance. They need to go to a doctor because antibiotics will help lessen the duration," Kansas City Health Department Media Spokesperson Bill Snook said.

Dr. Dattel also said the proper communication will help lessen the spread: "Inform the daycares, and inform the school systems that they may have had a child exposed to it. It's important to communication to all the families of potential exposures."

He described the symptoms as "explosive blood-lost stools" and "high spiking fevers up to 104, 105 degrees Farenheit."

Many of you also posted on our FOX 4 Facebook page about your personal experiences with the illness. One woman wrote, "I just had this [and I'm] still recouping. [It's the] sickest I have ever been." Another woman, a nurse, said, "My entire family has had that stomach bug. It really hits adults harder I believe. My husband and I had major body aches, while the kids didn't."

Doctors say the best prevention method is washing your hands with soap and water, and then using paper towels to dry them since hand towels can sometimes capture lingering bacteria.

Symptoms of Shigella include: 

  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • fever
  • watery diarrhea
  • stool with blood or mucous
  • tenesmus (the urge to continue to go to the bathroom when your bowels are empty)
  • vomiting and fever
  • a notable complication among young children may be convulsions

According to a news release from the Health Department to prevent Shigella or any other foodborne illness:

  • Wash your hands frequently, thoroughly and correctly with soap and warm water and use paper towels for drying. Educate smaller children regarding proper hand washing techniques and supervise hand washing.
  • Those infected should not prepare food or drinks for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the Shigella bacterium.
  • Dispose of diapers from infected children correctly. The diapers should be put in a closed-lid garbage can and then your hands should be immediately washed carefully with soap and water, as well as the child’s after changing or disposing of the diapers. Diaper changing areas should be disinfected with household bleach, Lysol or bactericidal wipes, according to directions.
  • Keep children and adults with diarrhea out of swimming pools, spas, and all shared water (including bath tubs) for 2 weeks following the end of diarrhea.