Shigellosis is a gastrointestinal disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Illness often occurs 1 to 2 days after exposure to Shigella, and lasts 5 to 7 days. This disease can be quite severe and lead to hospitalization, especially in young children and the elderly. Some people with shigellosis have very few or no symptoms, but can still pass Shigella to others. The diagnosis is usually made when a laboratory finds Shigella in the stool of an infected person. The stool of an infected person contains Shigella while they are sick, and for more than a week afterwards. Shigella is spread when the stool of a sick person passes into the mouth of another person. Spread of the illness most often occurs due to person-to-person contact, especially within families and childcare centers due to inadequate hand washing and poor hygienic habits. Sometimes, Shigella can contaminate food and cause illness among those who eat the tainted item. Food items that have been sources of outbreaks have included parsley, cilantro, lettuce, raw oysters, and even a commercially prepared bean dip. Shigellosis can also occur after drinking or swimming in contaminated water. Outbreaks have been reported among men who have sex with men, and among people living in crowded conditions with poor hygiene, such as jails and refugee camps.
To prevent shigellosis:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water carefully and frequently, especially after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages
- Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet
- Dispose of soiled diapers properly, and disinfect diaper changing areas after using them
- Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings
- 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 or recreational water
- Avoid fecal exposure during sex