by Levi Moffe

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General Overview

Shigella was discovered by and also named after Japanese microbiologist Dr. Shiga , who at the time was investigating an outbreak of dysentery characterized by bloody diarrhea. Shigellosis attacks the digestive track and can lead to bloody fluids very quickly. You can develop only a brief fever, with mild diarrhea that goes away on its own. But about 25% of patients, however, develop high fever, abdominal cramping and severe diarrhea that can contain blood, mucus and pus. These people can have 10 to 30 bowel movements each day. There are four species of shigella. Shigella Dysenteriae, Shigella Flexneri, Shigella Boydii, and Shigella Sonnei.


Transmission occurs via the fecal- oral route, through direct person to person contact, or indirectly through contaminated food, water, or formties. Since as few as 10 organisma can cause infection, shigellosis is easily transmitted and can be acquired during short-term travel. Only humans and higher primates carry shigella. In the U.S , Shigella Sonnei infection is usually transmitted through interpersonal contact, particularly among the young children and their caregivers. Food borne outbreaks have been linked to contaminated foods commonly consumed raw, as well as infected food handlers. Out breaks have also been traced to contaminated drinking water, swimming in contaminated water, and sexual contact between men.


Worldwide , Shigella is estimated to cause 80-165 million cases of disease, and about 600,00 of those cases result in death. Shigella mainly affects kids as they are teens, and as you are older in age, around 70 or 80. Foodborne illness is not traditionally traced back to race, or ethinicity or income, but it was found most cases come from minorities and low socioeconomic populations in the U.S, and Europe. Most deaths due to Shigellosis occurs in developing countries, and the mortality rate ranges from 1%-30%.

Signs and Symptoms

Frequent bouts of watery diarrhea are the main symptom of shigellosis. Abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting may also occur. Many people who have shigellosis also have either blood or mucus in their stool, and they may run a fever. Symptoms usually begin within three days of coming in contact with Shigella. More severe cases may appear but are not as common.
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Because the symptoms of a Shigella infection are consistent with a fairly large number of potential illnesses, including most foodborne infections, a diagnosis must be confirmed by a laboratory test. First a stool sample must be obtained from the potentially infected person, and then the sample is placed on a medium to encourage the growth of bacteria. If and when there is growth, the bacteria are identified, usually by looking at the growth under a microscope. Then after testing doctors can inform you what antibiotics to take and what treatment to follow.
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Combating dehydration is the main goal of treatment for most cases of shigellosis. It is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially electrolyte solutions, many of which are available over the counter. It is usually not advisable to take any type of medication to relieve your diarrhea, as this will keep the bacteria in your system longer and may make the infection worse.Moderate-to-severe infection may require medical treatment. Medical treatment will usually include antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria from your digestive tract. Your doctor may test your stool to confirm that Shigella is the source of the infection. Confirmation of Shigella helps your doctor choose the right medication to fight shigellosis. Drug options include powerful antibiotic medications: Azithromycin, Ciprofloxacin, Co-Trimoxazole. So yes, there is a cure for Shigellosis, because very rare people in the U.S get hospitalization for it.


You can prevent shigellosis by practicing good personal hygiene. Wash your hands before and after you use the bathroom or change a diaper. Discard dirty diapers in a closed bag or trashcan to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Use soap and warm water every time you wash your hands. Wipe down changing tables and kitchen counters with antibacterial wipes before and after use. Avoid close personal contact with someone who is infected with Shigella until at least two days after the diarrhea has ended. People who have shigellosis should not prepare food for others until they feel better and stop having diarrhea. Your doctor may test your stool again after your symptoms end to be sure Shigella is no longer present.

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Other Additional Information

If you have symptoms of shigellosis, go see a doctor early on. It can be easily taken care of if you catch it early on. Never be scared to go to your doctors with any concerns that you might have.
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