Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most people infected with shigella develop diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps within a day or two after infection. For some, the diarrhea can be so severe that they may need to be hospitalized. Conversely, others may experience no symptoms at all, but are still able to transmit the shigella bacteria.
How is it spread?
Shigella are present in the diarrheal stools of infected persons while they are sick and for a week or two afterwards. Most shigella infections are the result of the bacterium passing from stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person. This happens most frequently when basic hygiene and hand washing habits aren’t followed, food is handled and the contaminated food is eaten. Additionally it can be spread through sexual activity, such as direct or indirect oral-fecal contact (rimming), or by sharing sex toys.
What are the symptoms?
- Diarrhea (often bloody)
- Stomach cramps
How is it treated?
Shigellosis can usually be treated with antibiotics. Appropriate treatment kills the Shigella bacteria that are present in the patient’s stool, and shortens the illness.
How can infection be prevented?
There is no vaccine to prevent shigellosis. However, the spread of shigella can be reduced by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and water, after using the restroom and before handling food. With regard to sexual exposure, shigella transmission can also be reduced by not engaging in risky activities while an individual is experiencing symptoms and for several weeks after symptoms have stopped. Washing the anus and surrounding areas well with soap and water, as well as washing sex toys before and after use, will also help to reduce the spread.