What is shigellosis?
Shigellosis is a bacterial infection affecting the intestinal tract. It is a fairly common disease; Most cases are seen in the summer and early fall and occur as single cases or outbreaks.
Who gets shigellosis?
Anyone can get shigellosis but it is recognized more often in young children.
How is the shigella germ spread?
Shigella germs are found in the intestinal tract of infected people, and is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by an infected person. It can also be spread by direct contact with an infected person.
What are the symptoms?
People exposed to the shigella germ may experience mild or severe diarrhea, often with fever and traces of blood or mucous in the stool. Some infected people may not show any symptoms.
How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms may appear one to seven days after exposure but usually within two to three days.
When and for how long is a person able to spread shigellosis?
Most people pass shigella in their feces (stool) for one to two weeks. Certain antibiotics may shorten the carrier phase.
Should infected people be isolated or excluded from school or work?
Since the germ is passed in the feces of an infected person, people with active diarrhea or those who are unable to control their bowel habits should be isolated. Most infected people may return to work or school when their diarrhea ceases, provided that they carefully wash their hands after toilet visits.
How is shigellosis treated?
Shigellosis can usually be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics commonly used for treatment are ampicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (also known as Bactrim* or Septra*), nalidixic acid, or ciprofloxacin. Appropriate treatment kills the Shigella bacteria that might be present in the patient's stools, and shortens the illness. Unfortunately, some Shigella bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics and using antibiotics to treat shigellosis can actually make the germs more resistant in the future. Persons with mild infections will usually recover quickly without antibiotic treatment. Therefore, when many persons in a community are affected by shigellosis, antibiotics are sometimes used selectively to treat only the more severe cases.
What can be done to prevent the spread of shigellosis?
Since germs are passed in feces, the single most important prevention activity is careful hand washing after using the toilet.