Santé Montréal


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Shigellosis is an acute bacterial infection caused by a bacillus belonging to the genus Shigella. The illness is characterized by diarrhea with fever, nausea, vomiting, and cramps. In typical cases, the stools contain blood and mucus from tiny abscesses on the intestinal wall caused by the invasion of the micro-organisms.

The infection is spread by the fecal-oral route. It passes from the feces of an infected person during defecation to their hands and fingernails. Infection then passes to another person either directly by physical touch or indirectly by contaminated food.

Source : Public Health Agency of Canada

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When to Consult

Sexual partners must see a doctor when similar symptoms appear 1 to 3 days after engaging in a sexual act that is at risk for transmitting shigellosis.

Anyone who has come into close contact (family member or someone living under the same roof) with a sick person should see their doctor if they have symptoms consistent with shigellosis.

Food handlers, healthcare workers and childcare workers must also exercise caution.

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Protection and prevention

What can you do to prevent shigellosis?

The best way to avoid a shigella infection is through good hygiene (e.g. hand washing) and safe food preparation and handling practices.

When travelling in tropical regions, preventive behaviours must be adopted and maintained to avoid ingesting contaminated water, liquids and foods.

Follow proper rules of personal hygiene

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds (then rinse and dry them thoroughly):

  • after going to the bathroom or helping a child go, or after changing a baby's diaper;
  • before and after preparing food and before eating;
  • after handling raw meat or eggs;
  • after having sex or touching a condom - especially if there has been contact with the anal area (for those whose engage in mouth-to-anus contact, use a latex "dental dam" or split a condom open to create a barrier to infection);
  • after coming into contact with a liquid or biological substance (e.g. feces, blood), even if you were wearing gloves;
  • when entering and leaving a caregiving setting (e.g. hospital, residential centre);
  • every time you think it necessary;

Make sure that children wash their hands.

Clean frequently used or contaminated objects or places (e.g. toilet seat, toilet flusher, taps) with hot water and a detergent/disinfectant to get rid of all germs.

Make sure your food is safe

  • Wash fruits and vegetables carefully before eating them.
  • Cook all meats, poultry and seafood thoroughly (cooked food must be served and eaten hot).
  • Put food in the refrigerator right away to keep it fresh.
  • Keep different foods separate: don't let cooked food come into contact with raw meat, poultry or eggs, or with any unwashed utensils and work surfaces used to prepare them.
  • Eat pasteurized dairy products.

Avoid drinking water that could be contaminated

  • Never drink untreated surface water (e.g. lakes, streams).

In tropical regions:

  • Avoid drinking tap water and putting ice cubes in your drinks (ice cubes contain micro-organisms!).
  • Stick to safe drinks, namely unopened bottled water, soft drinks, wine or beer.
  • Avoid swallowing water when you swim in a swimming pool.
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Risk factors

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Help and Resources

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Shigellosis is treated with antibiotics. Treatment causes the symptoms to go away sooner and eliminates the bacteria from the intestines. Because the bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, the choice of treatment should preferably be based on a stool culture.

Occasionally, shigellosis is less virulent and goes away on its own. However, an infected and untreated person can still transmit the infection for up to six weeks, even if he or she no longer has any symptoms.

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People at Risk

Shigellosis outbreaks are common in men who have sex with men and in circumstances where hygiene practices are poor, such as jails, day care centres and mental hospitals.

The disease can be serious in elderly people, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Because shigellosis can cause complications in HIV-positive persons, diarrhea with symptoms more severe than those likely to be associated with their treatment must be monitored in persons on triple therapy for HIV.

People with symptoms consistent with shigellosis or who have recently had shigellosis must see their doctor, who will determine whether or not stool cultures need to be done.

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Dernière mise à jour le : 2015.05.22