Shigellosis is a type of
food poisoning caused by infection with the shigella
bacterium. Every year, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the
United States.1 It is more common in summer than
winter. Children ages 2 to 4 are most likely to get the condition.
What causes shigellosis?
Shigellosis is spread
when the bacteria in feces (stool) or on soiled fingers are ingested. Poor
hand-washing habits and eating contaminated food may cause the condition.
Shigellosis is often found in day care centers, nursing homes, refugee camps,
and other places where conditions are crowded and sanitation is poor.
Shigellosis is likely to occur among toddlers
who are not fully toilet trained. Family members and playmates of infected
children are also at high risk of becoming infected.
become contaminated by infected food handlers who do not wash their hands with
soap after using the bathroom.
Vegetables can be contaminated if
they are harvested from a field that has sewage in it. Also, flies can breed in
infected feces and then contaminate food.
Shigellosis can result
from drinking or swimming in contaminated water. Water may become contaminated
if sewage runs into it or if someone with shigellosis swims in it.
Shigellosis also can be spread through sex, especially through
anal and oral sex.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of shigellosis
include diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps starting 1 or 2 days
after you are exposed to the bacteria. Shigellosis usually lasts 5 to 7 days.
In some people, especially young children and older adults, the diarrhea can be
so severe that a hospital stay is needed. Some people who are infected may have
no symptoms at all but may still spread shigellosis to others.
How is shigellosis diagnosed?
different diseases can cause a fever and bloody diarrhea, lab tests are the
best way to diagnose shigellosis. Your doctor will most likely still do a
physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have
recently eaten, and your work and home environments. A stool culture confirms
the diagnosis. Blood tests may be done if your symptoms are severe or to rule
out other causes.
How is it treated?
Shigellosis is usually treated
with antibiotics. But some types of Shigella bacteria
are not killed by antibiotics. This is called
resistance. Because using antibiotics can make these
bacteria even more resistant, mild cases of shigellosis are often not treated
with antibiotics. In this case, shigellosis is treated by managing complications until it passes.
Dehydration caused by diarrhea is the most common
complication. Do not use medicines to prevent diarrhea.
prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink
for each large, loose stool you have. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the
electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they
should not be used to rehydrate.