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What Is Shigella?

Posted on in Food borne illness


Do you feel a sharp pain in your lower abdomen and stomach and have the urge to use the bathroom 10 to 20 times a day? You might have Shigellosis, a severe intestinal infection caused by a bacterium called Shigella. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 450,000 people are diagnosed with Shigellosis every year. Causing bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea, cramps, and abdominal pain, this foodborne illness can infect anyone with poor sanitation habits. While there is no proper treatment for Shigellosis, researchers are still working on vaccines to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Keep reading to learn more about Shigella.

What Is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacteria that causes a severe infection in the digestive tract called Shigellosis. This contagious sickness can easily spread by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Also known as Bacillary Dysentery, the four species of Shigella include:

1. Shigella dysenteriae – Rare but deadly.

2. Shigella boydii – Is very rare in the United States.

3. Shigella flexneri – Is very rare in the United States.

4. Shigella sonnei – The most common specie in the United States

People who are at a high risk of getting a Shigella infection are:

● Children younger than 5 years old.

● Travelers with poor sanitation habits.

● Bisexual, gay, or men who prefer having sex with men - The bacteria can pass from soiled fingers on one person to the mouth of another during sexual activity.

● People with a weak immune system.

● Homeless people.

If not treated on time, Shigellosis can lead to severe dehydration, bloodstream infection, post-infectious arthritis, toxic megacolon, rectal prolapse, seizures, and Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS).

Causes of the Shigella Infection (Shigellosis) | How Does It Spread?

Highly infectious, Shigellosis can spread easily from one person to another. It is usually found in the stool of infected people and can transmit when a person comes in contact with surfaces touched by the infected person or if they drink from their glass or eat from their plate.

This foodborne illness is very common in children who aren’t properly potty trained and family members or caretakers who don’t wash their hands after changing diapers. Another way that the disease spreads is when a person drinks contaminated water from ponds, springs, swimming pools, hot tubs, rivers, streams, lakes, and jacuzzis.

Symptoms of Shigellosis

Even though the symptoms of Shigellosis usually begin 1 or 2 days after coming in contact with the bacteria, in some cases, they might surface within 12 hours as well. Some common symptoms and signs of Shigellosis are given below:

● Fever

● Nausea or Vomiting

● Cramps

● Stomach pain

● Tenesmus –  Feeling to pass stool even when the bowls are empty

● Diarrhea – can be bloody, water, and even contain pus or mucus.

Note that in many cases, people with Shigellosis don’t have any symptoms. However, this foodborne illness can still be contagious. It is advised to stay hydrated throughout the infection period and call your healthcare provider if diarrhea worsens or the symptoms don’t go away after 5 to 7 days.

How Is Shigellosis Treated?

The treatment for Shigellosis depends on how severe the infection is. This can be determined after conducting a lab test of your stool sample. In this section, we will be stating the two medically advised treatment options for foodborne illness:

Medical Treatment

People with weak immune systems might be infected with Shigellosis severely. In this case, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics to remove the bacteria from your digestive tract and treat the infection. These medications can include Azithromycin (Zithromax), Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim (Bactrim), and Ciprofloxacin (Cipro).

Shigella cases rarely require hospitalization. However, suppose you have extreme vomiting, nausea, severe stomach pain, and bloody diarrhea. In that case, the doctor might keep you under observation and inject you with intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and speed up the recovery process.

At-Home Treatment

As stated earlier, most cases of Shigella infection have mild symptoms that can be easily treated by getting enough rest and drinking fluids. Because Shigellosis can cause people to vomit, there is always a high risk of dehydration. Therefore, to prevent this, make sure that you drink plenty of fluids, especially electrolyte solutions.

It is also not advised to take any over-the-counter medication like Lomotil or Imodium to treat Shigellosis, as these drugs can keep the bacteria in your system, worsening the infection.

Shigellosis | Prevention Tips

The worst thing about Shigellosis is that it can easily be transmitted from one person to another. In fact, it only takes a small number of bacteria to make a person sick. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of getting infected by Shigella:

● Wash your hands using soap and water before preparing food or eating, performing a sexual activity, changing the diaper, and after coming from the bathroom.

● Make sure to discard all the dirty diapers in a closed trash can to prevent the bacteria from spreading.

● Use antibacterial wipes to clean and sanitize kitchen counters and tables.

● Never drink water from swimming pools, lakes, and ponds.

● Follow safe water and food instructions when traveling.

Prevent the Spread of Shigellosis If You Are Sick

● If you or your partner are diagnosed with Shigellosis, don’t have sex. It is advised to wait for at least two weeks after the diarrhea ends before being sexually involved with someone.

● Do not swim, prepare food, or share food.

● Stay home as much as you can.

● Wash hands often.

Hire a Shigella Poisoning Attorney Today!

Have you been diagnosed with Shigellosis, a foodborne illness you believe came from a food provider, nursing home, child care facility, restaurant, or grocery store? The highly trained, experienced, and skilled lawyers at Newland & Newland, LLP are there to help you fight for your rights. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the negligent parties are held responsible so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else again. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an Illinois Shigella lawyer right away!

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