Shigellosis (Shigella Infection) FAQs

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What You Need to Know About: Shigellosis

What is shigellosis?
Shigellosis is an illness caused by Shigella bacteria. The most common symptoms are:

  • diarrhea which may be bloody
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramps

These symptoms will usually go away by themselves in 4 to 7 days, however treatment with antibiotics may relieve your symptoms and make them go away faster.

How is shigellosis spread?
By hand-to-mouth contact with stool (feces) from a sick person or animal, eating contaminated foods, or drinking contaminated water.

You are more likely to get shigellosis if you:

  • are a child in day care
  • work in a day-care facility or with diapered children
  • have contact with stool through sexual practices or caring for someone with shigellosis
  • travel to a country where the food/water supply may be unsafe

How do I protect myself?

  • Always wash your hands:
    • after using the restroom
    • after changing a baby's diaper or touching anything soiled with stool (feces)
    • after cleaning the living areas of pets or livestock
    • before serving or preparing food
    • Avoid thawing foods on counters or in sinks and refrigerate leftovers right away
    • Avoid drinking water from ponds, lakes, rivers, or swimming pools
    • When traveling to a country where the water supply may be unsafe, boil your water or bring bottled water. Ask for drinks without ice
    • Avoid sexual practices that bring you into contact with stool

What if I think I have shigellosis?
Drink plenty of fluids and get extra rest. Visit your physician as soon as possible. Your doctor may have your stool tested for Shigella bacteria and may put you on a course of antibiotics. You should begin to feel better while taking the antibiotics. Children should not return to day care or school and foodhandlers should not return to work until diarrhea and fever go away.