Shigella Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Shigellosis is a diarrheal illness caused by the bacteria Shigella. Shigellosis can be quite severe, especially in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
Anyone can get Shigella, but those who are at the highest risk include:
- People with limited access to washing facilities who live in crowded areas, such as persons experiencing homelessness
- Men who have sex with men
- Young children in child care settings
- Travelers to developing countries
Infected persons carry Shigella in their feces (poop) while they are sick and can spread the disease. Ingesting even a small amount of contaminated feces can cause someone to become ill. Ways that people become infected with Shigella include:
- Unknown exposure to infected feces or objects that have infected feces on them (i.e. using contaminated utensils or sharing personal items with an infected person).
- Consumption of food or liquids contaminated by an infected person; food items that have been sources of outbreaks have included vegetables that are usually eaten raw, raw oysters, and commercially prepared food products.
- Swallowing untreated recreational water contaminated with Shigella; this includes lakes, pools, and water park play fountains.
- Exposure to the feces of an infected person during sexual contact.
Symptoms usually begin 1-2 days after exposure and can include:
- Diarrhea (can be bloody)
- Stomach pain
People with mild shigellosis usually recover without treatment. It is important to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration. For more severe infections, a health care provider can prescribe an appropriate antibiotic to treat shigellosis. Antibiotic-resistant Shigella has become increasingly common; therefore, health care providers should make treatment decisions based on culture results.
- Wash hands with soap and water carefully and frequently, especially after using the bathroom or after changing diapers.
- Always wash hands before preparing foods or beverages and eating.
- Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
- Do not prepare foods for others if you have diarrhea.
- Do not take part in recreational water activities (such as swimming) if you have diarrhea.
- Carefully wash vegetables that will be eaten raw.
- When traveling in developing countries, drink only treated or boiled water and eat only cooked hot foods or fruits you peel yourself.
- Avoid fecal exposure during sex.
California Department of Public Health:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
For questions contact the Epidemiology Department at (562) 570-4302