What is Shigellosis?
Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from person to person.

What are the symptoms?
Most people infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigella usually resolves in 5-7 days, but persons infected with the bacteria may remain infectious for up to 4 weeks. Shigella rarely requires hospitalization. A severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than 2 years old. Some persons who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the Shigella bacteria to others.

How is it spread?
  • Person to person This occurs mainly when the infected person's stools or soiled fingers come into contact with another person's mouth. This happens when basic hygiene and handwashing habits are inadequate. It is most likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained. Family members and playmates of such children are at high risk of becoming infected.
  • Sexual Contact Shigella can be spread during certain types of sexual activity. Outbreaks of Shigella have also been documented among men who have sex with men.
  • Contaminated food Food can become contaminated when a food handler who is infected with Shigella either forgets to wash their hands or does not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom.Vegetables can also become contaminated if they are harvested from a field with sewage in it.
  • Contaminated water. Water that comes into contact with sewage can be contaminated. Also, the disease can be spread if an infected person swims or plays in a wading pool, splash table, swimming pool or fountain - other people can get infected by drinking, swimming,or playing in the contaminated water.
What is the treatment?
Persons with mild infections usually recover quickly without medication. Antibiotics may shorten the duration of the illness and decrease the spread of infection. Antibiotic treatment is recommended for patients with severe disease, bloody diarrhea, or compromised immune systems.
How can I protect myself?
The spread of Shigella from an infected person to other persons can be stopped by frequent and careful handwashing. Frequent and careful handwashing is important. Handwashing among children should be frequent and supervised by an adult in daycare centers and homes with children who are not toilet trained.

If a child in diapers has Shigella, anyone who changes the child's diaper should dispose of it in a closed-lid garbage can and immediately wash their hands and the child's hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. After use, the diaper changing area should be wiped down with a disinfectant such as diluted household bleach, Lysol* or bactericidal wipes. When possible, young children with a Shigella infection who are still in diapers should not be in contact with uninfected children.

For more information on Shigella, Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.