Public health and school officials in Randolph County, MO, are investigating an outbreak of Shigellosis that they have been quietly monitoring for weeks.

The county health department issued a news release Monday, more than three weeks after Moberly School District officials notified parents of students at South Park Elementary School of the outbreak.

boywashinghands-406“No definite source has been determined and nothing has suggested a foodborne pathogen,” according to the health department statement.

Described by the health department as “a higher than average number of Shigellosis cases in school age children over the past three weeks,” the outbreak has sickened at least 23 children according to reports from ABC News affiliate KMIZ-TV, Channel 17.

“The health department says there have been 23 cases of either Shigellosis or E. Coli within the past three or four weeks,” the Columbia, MO, station reported.

A letter to parents, dated Sept. 30 and signed by the school district nurse, asked parents of South Park Elementary School students to watch their children for symptoms of Shigellosis, which include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.

“Shigellosis is easily transmitted through coming into contact with contaminated fecal matter,” the Randolph County Health Department news release said.

“Hands can become contaminated through a variety of activities, such as touching surfaces — e.g., toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails — that have been contaminated by stool from an infected person.”

Neither the Moberly School District website nor the South Park Elementary School website references the outbreak.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)