Health officials are calling on parents, caretakers, and workers at day-care centers and schools to help end an outbreak of a highly contagious intestinal illness called shigellosis.

The outbreak started in early November and has spread to about 60 day cares in the city and in north St. Louis County and two in Fenton, said Michael Williams, director of the communicable disease division of the St. Louis County Health Department.

County health officials have recorded 359 cases, 331 of which struck this year. In the city, 152 people have been sickened by the bacterial disease, with about 30 new cases appearing each month, said Pamela Rice Walker, acting director of the City Health Department. Most of the sick have been preschool-age children or young elementary school children — many who have siblings in day care, she said. St. Charles County has had three cases of shigellosis in the past month, two of which were associated with day cares.

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