What is Shigella infection?
Shigella is a bacteria that causes a disease called shigellosis.

How common is Shigella infection? 
Shigella bacteria can cause severe illness in infants, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems.  Travelers to developing countries, young children and men who have sex with men are at highest risk of infection.

In the U.S., the CDC estimates that there are 500,000 cases of shigella every year.

What are the symptoms of Shigella?
People who get a Shigella infection will usually begin to have symptoms of illness about 1-2 days after encountering the bacteria.  Symptoms include: diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, stomach pain, feeling the need to poop even when bowels are empty.

Symptoms usually last 5-7 days, but can sometimes persist for weeks.

Some people may not have symptoms at all (but can still pass the bacteria to others).

How is Shigella spread?
Shigella is very contagious and just a few bacteria can make people sick. Shigella can be spread by people getting germs on their hands and then touching their food or their mouth or by eating food that was prepared by someone who is sick with Shigellosis.  Other sources may be from changing diapers of an ill child or caring for someone who is sick with Shigella; swallowing recreational water while swimming (ex: lake, river); or having exposure to stool during sexual contact with someone who is sick or has recently been sick with Shigella.

When to call your healthcare provider
Contact your healthcare provider if you have fever, bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramping, if you become dehydrated, or if symptoms do not resolve.

How is Shigella diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider can order laboratory tests to identify which germ has caused your illness.

How is Shigella infection treated?
Most people will recover on their own without treatment in about 5-7 days; make sure to have adequate fluids to prevent dehydration.  Healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics for people who are severely ill. If your healthcare provider prescribes antibiotics, and you are not getting better within a few days, notify your provider.

People with Shigella should not use anti-diarrheal medications (ex:  loperamide/Immodium) as they may make symptoms worse

Wash Your Hands
How do I avoid Shigella infection?

Reduce the chance of getting Shigella by regular hand washing with soap and water before preparing or eating food,

  • After changing diapers or assisting others with toileting
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or other recreational water

When traveling, follow safe food and water guidelines (Only drink bottled, boiled or chemically treated water; only eat foods that are freshly cooked and served hot or fruit that you can peel yourself.)

Avoid having sex with those who have, or recently have had, a diarrheal illness.

Is there anything special I need to know?

Do not prepare food for others if you are ill with Shigella.  

People who have Shigella and work in child care, food service, or healthcare industry are more likely to spread their illness to others if they work while they are ill.  Please contact your local health department to discuss when it is safe for you to return back to work.

Stay home from school, daycare, or work until your health department says it is okay to return.

If you are ill with Shigella do not go swimming while you have diarrhea.

If you have Shigella, do not have sex for one week after your diarrhea is gone.

Why does public health investigate Shigella cases?
It is the responsibility of the local health department to investigate Shigella in the community. The health department keeps track of how many people are getting the disease and works to limit the number of people exposed.  

Sometimes there are outbreaks when two or more people become ill from the same source. The health department monitors Shigella in an attempt to identify and stop outbreaks of the disease.  

Laboratories and healthcare providers are required to report cases of Shigella to the local or State health department.  If you have been reported as having a Shigella infection, the health department will likely contact you to try to identify the source of your illness and to help you prevent spreading the infection to others.