What Is Shigellosis?
Shigellosis is a bacterial infection
that affects the digestive system. Shigellosis is caused by a group of bacteria
called Shigella. The Shigella bacterium is spread through
contaminated water and food or through contact with contaminated feces. The
bacteria release toxins that irritate the intestines. The primary symptom of
shigellosis is diarrhea.
According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
about 500,000 people in the United States report having shigellosis every year.
The symptoms vary in intensity. You may have a mild shigellosis infection and
not even realize or report it.
Toddlers and preschoolers are more
likely than older children and adults to get shigellosis. This may be because
young children put their fingers in their mouths often and are more likely to
ingest the bacteria. The large number of diaper changes in childcare centers may
also increase the concentration of infection in this age group.
Recognizing the Symptoms of
Frequent bouts of watery diarrhea are
the main symptom of shigellosis. Abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting may
also occur. Many people who have shigellosis also have either blood or mucus in
their stool, and they may run a fever.
Symptoms usually begin within 3 days
of coming in contact with Shigella. In some cases, however,
symptoms of infection may appear as much as a week after contact.
Diarrhea and other signs of
shigellosis usually last between 2 and 7 days. Mild infection lasting a couple
of days may not require treatment. However, it’s critical to stay hydrated in
between bouts of diarrhea. Call your doctor if you have diarrhea for more than 3
days. This is very important, especially if you cannot keep down food or water.
Dehydration is a real danger associated with shigellosis.
Treatment for Shigellosis
Combating dehydration is the main goal
of treatment for most cases of shigellosis. It is important to drink plenty of
fluids, especially electrolyte solutions, many of which are available over the
counter. It is usually not advisable to take any type of medication to relieve
your diarrhea, as this will keep the bacteria in your system longer and may
make the infection worse.
Moderate or severe infections may
require medical treatment. Treatment will usually include antibiotics to
eliminate the bacteria from your digestive tract. Your doctor may test your
stool to confirm that Shigella is the source of the infection.
Confirmation of Shigella helps your doctor to choose the right
medication to fight shigellosis. Drug options include powerful antibiotic
medications, such as:
- azithromycin (Zithromax)
- ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim)
Hospitalization for shigellosis is
rare. However, in some severe situations, hospitalization is required. If you have
extreme nausea and vomiting, you may need intravenous fluids and medication.
Most people have no lasting ill
effects from shigellosis.
The CDC reports that approximately two
percent of people infected with Shigella
flexneri (one of several types of Shigella) develop a
condition called post-infection arthritis after having shigellosis. Symptoms of
post-infection arthritis include joint pain, painful urination, and eye
irritation. Post-infection arthritis can become a chronic condition that lasts
several months, years, or the rest of your life. It is caused by a reaction to
the Shigella infection and happens only in people who are
genetically predisposed to it.
Can you Be Re-Infected by
the Shigella Bacteria?
a group of several different bacteria. Once you have been infected with one
type of Shigella, you are not likely to be infected by the same
bacteria again. However, you may become infected by a different bacterium from
the same family.
You can prevent shigellosis by
practicing good personal hygiene. Wash your hands before and after you use the
bathroom or change a diaper. Discard dirty diapers in a closed bag or trashcan
to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Use soap and warm water every time you
wash your hands. Wipe down changing tables and kitchen counters with
antibacterial wipes before and after use.
Avoid close personal contact with
someone who is infected with Shigella until at least 2 days
after the diarrhea has ended.
People who have shigellosis should not
prepare food for others until they feel better and stop having diarrhea. Your
doctor may test your stool again after your symptoms end to be sure Shigella is
no longer present.