What is shigellosis?
Shigellosis is an infection of the intestine caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. It causes diarrhea which may be bloody, and can cause severe dehydration, particularly among very children or elderly persons. Shigella is very easily spread and with very few organisms. Dysentery is caused by infection with one particular Shigella species (Shigella dysenteriae). Shigella could also be used as a bioterrorist weapon.
How do you get it?
Shigella is found in the stool (feces) of infected people, in food or water contaminated by an infected person, and on surfaces that have been touched by infected people. Shigellosis often occurs in toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained. Family members and playmates of children infected with Shigella are at high risk of becoming infected. Shigella can spread easily in environments such as day care facilities.
People become infected with Shigella by:
- Eating food or drinking liquids contaminated by an infected person.
- Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their mouth or putting a contaminated object into their mouth.
- Swallowing recreational water contaminate with Shigella (recreational water includes streams, rivers, springs, ponds, swimming pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and water park fountains).
- Not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and then eating foods.
Shigellosis is not transmitted by coughing or sneezing.
What are the symptoms of shigellosis?
The symptoms include diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and fever. Sometimes people infected with Shigella have no symptoms at all, but can still pass the bacteria to others. The illness usually lasts on average 4-7 days.
When do symptoms start?
The symptoms usually begin 1 to 3 days following infection with the bacteria, but the onset may occur in as few as 12 hours to 96 hours.
What is the treatment for shigellosis?
Fluid and electrolyte replacement is most important. Most persons with shigellosis will recover without treatment. However, a doctor can prescribe medicine to treat severe cases of the disease. In general, antidiarrheal medications are not recommended because they may prolong the illness.
Should a person with shigellosis stay home from work or school?
Yes. Food handlers, day care workers, and health care workers should not return to work until they have their doctor's permission.
How can you keep from getting it?
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet or changing diapers. After changing diapers, wash the childís hands as well as your own.
Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or serving food and before eating or feeding children.
Avoid sexual practice that may permit fecal-oral transmission.
Keep flies from contaminating food.