Shigellosis

Shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery or Marlow Syndrome is an acute gastrointestinal infection caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Shigella sonnei/ "group D" shigella, shigella flexneri/ "group B" shigella and shigella dysenteriae type 1 are the different types of shigella bacteria responsible for this most contagious form of diarrhea. Shigella bacteria were discovered by a Japanese scientist, Shiga and hence the name. Mild shigellosis doesn’t usually require hospitalization, while special attention is necessary in the case of young children and elderly to avoid potential health risks. Those who already had shigellosis caused by a specific shigella bacteria would immunize against the bacteria and are less likely to get it again for several years. However, there is a chance to get infected with other types of shigella bacteria. In the United States around 18,000 cases of shigellosis are reported annually.

What are the symptoms of shigellosis?

Symptoms of shigellosis generally develop within a couple of days after exposed to the bacteria.

Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Presence of blood, mucus, or pus in stool
  • Vomiting and nausea

How is shigellosis diagnosed?

A stool culture can diagnose shigellosis. Identifying the variety of shigella bacteria that cause the disease would help in finalizing the treatment.

How is shigellosis treated?

Antibiotic treatment is proved efficient in treating shigellosis. Ampicillin is the common medication used for the treatment. High fever associated with the disease needs to be treated. Antimotility agents and narcotic-related antidiarrheals are avoided, as these might worsen the situation. Oral rehydration therapy is often preferred. Those with mild infection recover quickly and need not necessarily use antibiotic medications. Antibiotic therapy for shigellosis is available at reasonable rate.

How can shigellosis be prevented?

There are currently no vaccines available against shigellosis. However good personal hygiene habits can prevent the spread of shigellosis.

Here are some tips to prevent shigellosis:

  • Clean your hands with soap after using the toilet and after changing the diapers.
  • Keep kids with shigellosis away from child care settings.
  • Avoid preparing food while suffering from shigellosis.
  • Teach good toilet etiquette to toddlers and small children.
  • Avoid drinking water from ponds, untreated pools and lakes.