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Health Department



Tell me more about shigellosis.

Shigellosis is a gastrointestinal disease caused by the Shigella bacterium, which involves abdominal pain and bloody, watery diarrhea. Two main species cause shigellosis in the US: S. flexneri and S. sonnei. Only 10-200 bacteria are required to cause shigellosis, which makes this disease extremely contagious.

How is shigellosis transmitted?

Shigellosis is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, and is especially common among children who are not yet toilet trained. A person can also contract shigellosis if they ingest food contaminated with Shigella. This can happen when a food worker doesn't wash his/her hands properly after using the toilet or when raw sewage contaminates fruits and vegetables during the watering process.

Shigellosis is especially common in areas of the world with poor hygiene and where there is a lack of access to clean drinking water.

What are the symptoms of shigellosis?

The most common symptom of an infection with Shigella bacteria is bloody diarrhea. Often accompanying this are abdominal pain, fever, and malaise (not feeling well). Some people can be infected with Shigella bacteria and not show symptoms, though the bacteria may be found in their stool (feces).

How is shigellosis diagnosed?

Because shigellosis is not the only infection that can cause bloody diarrhea, a laboratory needs to examine a person's stool to identify Shigella bacteria. With these tests, the type of Shigella bacteria can be identified, as well as which antibiotics may be used.

How is shigellosis treated?

Although shigellosis is a very unpleasant illness, most people recover on their own without antibiotics. In very severe cases, antibiotics may be used to prevent complications. The best thing to do is to prevent dehydration from diarrhea by using an Oral Rehydration Formula.

It is important not to give anti-diarrheal medications to a person with shigellosis as they only make the problem worse.

How can I prevent shigellosis?

The most important action you can take to prevent shigellosis is to wash your hands properly and thoroughly, especially after using the toilet or changing an infant's diaper. It is also important to properly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.

The CDC recommends the following actions to prevent shigellosis:

  • wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages
  • dispose of soiled diapers properly disinfect diaper changing areas after using them
  • keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings
  • supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet
  • persons with diarrheal illness should not prepare food for others
  • if you are traveling to the developing world, "boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it"
  • avoid drinking pool water

FDA "Bad Bug" Book- Shigella:


CDC Info on shigellosis:

cdc info