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Communicable Disease Fact Sheet

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What is shigellosis?

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection of the intestines. It is highly contagious and can cause severe infections requiring hospitalization.

What are the symptoms?

Illness usually begins 1 to 4 days after swallowing the bacteria and may last 4 to 7 days.
Symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea - watery and/or bloody
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe cases may cause dehydration (i.e. loss of fluids) or convulsions in young
  • Sometimes people have few or no symptoms at all but can still pass the bacteria to others.

How is it spread?

  • Shigella is found in the stool (bowel movement) of infected persons.
  • It spreads when hands, food, water or objects (toys, etc.) become contaminated with the stool of an infected person and then get into someone else`s mouth (e.g. when an infected person does not wash hands well after using the bathroom).
  • Swallowing recreational water contaminated with Shigella (e.g. lakes, rivers, swimming pools).
  • Not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

Who gets shigellosis?

Anyone can get shigellosis but the following are at greater risk of being infected:

  • Children in day care centers
  • Family members and playmates of children infected with Shigella
  • Travelers to certain foreign countries
  • Institutionalized people
  • Men having sex with men

What should I do if I have symptoms?

  • Do not send your child to daycare or preschool if he or she has diarrhea.
  • Donít go to work if you are a healthcare worker, food handler or a daycare worker.
  • Contact your healthcare provider.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid preparing food for others.

How is shigellosis diagnosed?

  • Shigella is identified from a stool culture test.

How is shigellosis treated?

  • In some cases antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Persons with milder illness may recover on their own.
  • Anti-diarrhea medications should not be used to treat Shigella infection.

How can I prevent the spread of shigellosis?

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds:
    • After using the bathroom
    • After changing diapers
    • Before eating
    • Before preparing food

  • Wash your hands more often when someone in the household is sick.
  • Supervise/assist children to be sure they are properly washing their hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces immediately after vomiting or diarrheal accidents.
  • Properly dispose of soiled diapers.
  • People with diarrhea should not use public swimming areas until one week after symptoms end.

Report Shigella cases to Saint Louis
County Department of Health by calling
(314) 615-1630

IMPORTANT Missouri State Regulations require health departments to restrict the activities of persons with Shigellosis in certain settings. Food handlers, children and staff in day care settings, and health care workers must obtain the approval of the local health department before returning to their routine activities.