Is Shigella Contagious, How Do You Get It & What is its Treatment?

Shigella is a type of infection in intestines that is caused by Shigella germs. These germs belong to the family of bacteria. Diarrhea associated with blood is the main symptom of Shigella.

Is Shigella Contagious?

Shigella is contagious in nature i.e., it can be transmitted from infected person to a healthy person. The vector or the carrier of the infection is stool. It usually happens when staff involved in taking care of children does not clean their hands properly after changing the diapers. It can also get passed on via contaminated food and water.

Is Shigella Contagious

Swimming in a pool can also cause Shigella if the water of the swimming pool contains Shigella germs.

The risk of getting Shigella is higher in children belonging to the age group of 2-4 years. In most cases, the shigella infection can go away without any medication. If it persists, antibiotics are required to get rid of the infection.

The signs of shigella start to appear within 24 to 48 hours from getting infected or coming in contact with the bacteria. In a few cases, it may take longer up to 7 days to show the symptoms of infection.

Some of the Common Symptoms of Shigella are:

  • Fever
  • Pain in stomach with feeling of cramps
  • Diarrhea usually associated with discharge of blood or mucus

In some cases, the Shigella symptoms may not appear at all. However, the infection can still pass on to other people who come in contact with the person’s stool.

How Do You Get Shigella?

The much common way of getting Shigella is via contaminated water or food. Certain food items such as salads, sandwiches etc… that require lot of hand touch are mainly responsible for spreading infection.

There are various ways by which the bacteria can enter into your body and cause Shigella infection. Some of the much common ways by which one can get Shigella are:

  • The germs of Shigella can easily pass on into one’s body if one does not clean their hands properly before eating food. Your hands might contain the bacteria that can enter into your food and ultimately in your body. Direct physical contact with the infected person can also cause shigella. Your hands may also get infected while changing the diapers.
  • A person infected with shigella virus can easily pass on these bacteria to a healthy person via contaminated food. A person who is involved with cooking or handling food can easily spread this infection
  • The bacteria can also enter via infected water. While you are swimming in pool, you cannot avoid water from entering your mouth. This can lead to Shigella.

What is the Treatment for Shigella?

Treatment of Shigella infection focuses on replenishing the loss of fluids from the body. Avoid drugs like loperamide (Imodium) or atropine (Lomotil) as they can worsen your condition.

Antibiotics for Treating Shigella

Antibiotics are recommended for treating Shigella in case of infants, small children and older adults. They can also be given to people suffering from HIV. In other cases, use of antibiotic is not recommended.

Fluid and Salt Replacement for Shigella Treatment

Drinking lots of water and oral rehydration solution is an effective and safe treatment option for Shigella and also preventing dehydration and replenishing lost water.

Risk Factors for Shigella

The following are the risk factors for Shigella:

  • Small children lying in the age group of 2-4 years are at a higher risk of getting infected with Shigella.
  • People who live in groups or come in physical contact with numerous individuals daily.
  • Traveling to cities or countries where the sanitation conditions are poor.
  • Male who involved in gay sex are at higher risk because of the oral-anal contact.

Complications of Shigella

Usually, Shigella does not result in any severe complications. However, the infection can take a long time even months to clear off from the body completely.
Common complications of Shigella that may occur are as follows:


Shigella can cause diarrhea leading to excessive loss of water from the body. The common symptoms of diarrhea are sunken eyes, dizziness, lack of tears in infants etc. If not attended in time, excessive loss of water may even cause death.


In some cases of shigella accompanied with fever, children may experience seizures. However, it is not clear of the seizures are caused due to fever or infection.

Rectal Prolapsed

This is a special condition where the rectum may push out of the anus due to excessive straining during bowel movement.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

In a few cases of Shigella, a person may develop hemolytic anemia and hemolytic anemia which refers to low RBC and platelets in body.

Prevention of Shigella

Medical scientists and experts are still trying to develop vaccine for preventing Shigella. We can take some steps to prevent this infection:

  • Maintain proper sanitation and wash your hands with soap frequently to prevent Shigella.
  • Inculcate the habit of washing hands regularly in children.
  • Do not throw diapers in open.
  • Another way to prevent Shigella is by disposing diapers properly.
  • Apply disinfectant on the area that was covered by the diaper.
  • Do not participate in food preparation if you are suffering from diarrhea.
  • If your children are having diarrhea, keep them isolated from other children.
  • Avoid swimming or taking a bath in dirty lakes and ponds.
  • Do not make sexual contact with anyone who is suffering from diarrhea or even just recovered from diarrhea.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 6, 2017

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