But there's no need to panic, even though Missouri health officials haven't speculated what caused the sudden spike.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 500,000 cases of shigella are diagnosed in the United States each year. While that may seems like a lot, it's rather small compared to other types of bacterial diseases that make the rounds each year.
That said, it's not exactly something you want to deal with. The different types of Shigella bacteria are generally transmitted through contaminated food or water or through contact with someone already infected -- often at schools or daycare centers. The bacteria invades the digestive tract, cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping with "explosive blood-lost stools" and "high spiking fevers up to 104, 105 degrees Farenheit," Kansas City Health Department Media Spokesperson Bill Snook told Fox 4 KC.
The disease typically affects the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems the most. Luckily, it can generally be treated through a course of antibiotics supplemented with plenty of rest. Doctors are generally the only ones who can diagnose shigella because "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., told Fox 4 KC.
Should you be worried about contracting shigella if you don't live in Kansas City? No, at least not anymore worried than you would be about contracting other types of intestinal illnesses.
"We really don't have any idea why [there's been an outbreak]," health department spokesman Bill Snook told CNN. "We know that the Shigella pattern is that we usually have an outbreak every five years."
This outbreak is in line with that time frame, he added. So, it's not that you need to be overly concerned but, as with any illness, it's important to play offense with both your health and the health of your children. Because it's spread through contaminated surfaces, be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water and use paper towels to dry off.
And if you still get sick? We're headed into prime cold and flu season, so make sure you get to the doctor as soon as possible to cut down on your suffering — and to avoid passing it on to others.
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