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What is Shigellosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Shigellosis?

Shigellosis is bacterial infection of the intestines caused by the bacterium shigella. This condition is characterized by blood diarrhea. This bacterium can be passed through direct contact with infected stool. This mainly happens in child care centers where the workers may not wash their hands thoroughly after changing the diapers of children and may come in contact with the bacteria.

This bacterium can also be transmitted by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. Shigellosis is most prevalent in children between the ages of 2 and 5. It usually takes about a week to completely recover from a bout of Shigellosis. In severe cases antibiotics may be prescribed for treatment of Shigellosis.

What are the Causes of Shigellosis?

The shigella bacterium can enter the body through numerous ways. It can enter through the mouth when an individual touches the mouth after changing the diaper of a baby without properly washing the hands. Contaminated food is yet another way to get Shigellosis.

An infected individual handling food can spread the infection to other people who eat that food. Eating vegetables that comes from a field through which drainage system passes by can also be contaminated by shigella bacteria and eating vegetables from that field may also result in development of Shigellosis.

Drinking contaminated water is yet another way of getting Shigellosis. The water may be contaminated by getting mixed with sewage water or in pool in which an individual with Shigellosis has been swimming.

What is Shigellosis?

What are the Symptoms of Shigellosis?

The symptoms of Shigellosis usually begin a couple of days after contracting the infection but a full blown Shigellosis may take up to a week to appear. Some of the symptoms of Shigellosis include:

How is Shigellosis Diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose Shigellosis is by taking a stool culture which will clearly show the presence of the shigella bacteria. Once the presence of the bacteria is confirmed along with the symptoms that are being described by the patient it becomes easy to definitively arrive at a diagnosis of Shigellosis.

What is the Treatment for Shigellosis?

Shigellosis usually goes way by itself within a span of a week or so but it can render an individual very weak and dehydrated due to the severe diarrhea and fever. Thus it is important for an individual with Shigellosis to stay hydrated till the infection runs its course. It is recommended to avoid any medications used to treat specifically diarrhea as they may make the condition even worse.

In severe cases of Shigellosis, the mainstay of treatment is antibiotics. This will not only help relieve the symptoms but also hasten the recovery period. There are some forms of Shigellosis which are antibiotic resistent thus physicians are quite weary of starting antibiotics right away so as to not allow the bacteria to become more resistent to antibiotics and make treatment difficult for people with Shigellosis.

Antibiotic treatment is also necessary for the elderly population or people with HIV as their immune system is compromised and the infection may take much more time to go away in such people. In cases of children suffering from Shigellosis, oral rehydration solution is of extreme importance. These rehydration solutions are easily available off the shelf in a drug store.

In cases of severe form of Shigellosis, especially in children and older adults or people with compromised immune system treatment needs to be given in an inpatient setting to avoid worsening of the condition and prevent further spread of the disease. These people will receive intravenous antibiotics and other fluids to get them rehydrated and treat them faster from Shigellosis.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Shigellosis: https://www.cdc.gov/shigella/index.html
  2. MedlinePlus – Shigellosis: https://medlineplus.gov/shigellosis.html

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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 18, 2023

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