Shigellosis is a contagious illness caused by the Shigella bacterium. There are four different types of Shigella which cause diarrhea. The bacteria are present in the fecal matter (bowel movement) of infected individuals. Shigella bacteria are often spread by touching contaminated hands to the mouth, by eating/drinking contaminated food or water, or through person to person contact. Shigella cannot live outside the body for long. Children, childcare workers, and those with weak immune systems are the most likely to be infected. However, not all infected people develop symptoms.
Symptoms of shigellosis begin 1 to 2 days after exposure to the bacteria and may include fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Symptoms generally last 5 to 7 days. Shigellosis may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are common to other illnesses. Lab tests of the stool or fecal matter can determine the bacteria type and if antibiotics will help.
Complications include post-infectious arthritis, blood stream infections, seizures, and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Post-infectious arthritis symptoms include joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination, which may last only a few months or may be permanent. Blood stream infections usually occur in individuals with weak immune systems by germs entering the blood stream through damaged lining of the intestines. Children with a high fever may experience seizures. Hemolytic-uremic syndrome occurs when bacteria in the digestive system produce toxins to destroy red blood cells, causing bloody diarrhea.
Treatment for shigellosis includes drinking fluids and rest. In most cases, the body will clear the bacterial infection on its own. Antibiotics may be used in severe cases, although some Shigella bacteria are resistant. Common hygiene methods such as washing hands with soap can reduce the spread of shigellosis. If you are suffering from shigellosis, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.