Shigella bacteria cause an infection called shigellosis. There are multiple species of Shigella bacteria and the most common species in the US is called Shigella sonnei. Shigella bacteria spread easily, and it takes a small number of bacteria to make someone sick. People with shigellosis can spread the infection to others for several weeks after their diarrhea ends.
You can get shigellosis by swallowing the Shigella bacteria. Some ways Shigella can get into your mouth are:
- Getting the bacteria on your hands and then touching your mouth.
- Eating food prepared by someone with a Shigella infection.
- Swallowing water you swim or play in, such as lakes or improperly treated swimming pool water.
- Swallowing contaminated drinking water.
- Exposure to feces during sexual contact with someone that has a Shigella infection.
A health care provider diagnosesShigella infection with a laboratory test for bacteria in a stool sample. Antibiotics may be used to treat shigellosis. Those with an infection should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Many shigellosis outbreaks occur in childcare or school settings, and children younger than 5 years old are the most likely to be infected. Travelers, men who have sex with men, people experiencing homelessness, and those with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk for shigellosis.
People with shigellosis usually start experiencing symptoms 1 to 2 days after contact with the germ. Symptoms usually last about 5 to 7 days. In some cases, it may take several months before bowel habits go back to normal. Common shigellosis symptoms include:
Some people will not have any symptoms. Contact a healthcare provider if you experience bloody or prolonged diarrhea with fever, severe stomach cramps, or dehydration.
You can reduce your chance of getting shigellosis by following the tips below.
Carefully wash your hands with soap and water:
- Before any sexual activity
- Before preparing food or eating
- After going to the bathroom, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after someone who went to the bathroom
Take care when changing diapers:
- As soon as you change a diaper, throw it away
- Clean up any leaks or spills from the diaper right away
- Wash your hands and the child's hands with soap and water right away
Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or swimming pools.
When traveling internationally, follow safe food and water habits and wash hands often with soap and water.
If you or your partner has been diagnosed with shigellosis, do not have sex. To reduce the chance of Shigella spreading, wait at least two weeks after diarrhea ends to have sex.