Shigellosis is a severe infectious disease that is usually caused by a family of bacteria known as the Shigella. This bacterial infection mostly affects the digestive system and usually spreads through contaminated food or water or hands or coming in contact with contaminated faeces. Also Read: Diarrhoea: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

The Shigella bacteria has four different species, chiefly Shigella flexneri, Shigella boydi, Shigella sonnei, and Shigella dysenteriae. The infection is extremely contagious and can enter into the body even with minimum exposure to the bacterium. The bacteria is usually transmitted from stools or soiled hands to the person’s mouth if the person is using the hands to eat or in any case puts the fingers inside the mouth without maintaining basic hygiene and handwashing habits. These bacteria usually release inflammatory toxins that irritate the intestines and causes severe stomach trouble.


Risk Factors

Although it can occur to anyone, in most cases, the infection is noticed among toddlers and pre-schoolers since most kids at a younger age have a habit of putting their fingers in the mouth and are more at risk of ingesting the bacteria. Even nurses working in childcare centres, who have to change diapers for babies are at risk of getting this infection. It is also common when people stay or use the same closed quarter as in the case of nursing homes, common pools, military barracks or jails. Also Read: Unhygienic Living Conditions Lead To Shigella In Kids

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People infected with the Shigella bacteria usually start manifesting the signs and symptoms within 1 or 2 days after the invasion. These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea accompanied by blood or mucous
  • Abdominal cramps or fever
  • Vomiting and Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Tenesmus i.e. Feel the urgency to pass stool even when the bowel is empty


Although the infection usually clears up on its own, there are certain chronic conditions, when diagnosis and treatment options are required. If not treated on time, the infection can lead to dehydration, rectal prolapse, toxic megacolon, Haemolytic uremic syndrome, reactive arthritis and even seizures.

Diagnosis And Treatment

It is advisable to see a doctor right away if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. The gastroenterologist usually acknowledges the patient's travel history or working conditions to understand from where he has picked up the infection. He usually performs a stool test to confirm the presence of the bacteria or the toxins.

Although the infection often subdues on its own, one still needs to take some kind of medicated fluid intake to get rid of the infection at the earliest. The doctor usually prescribes for Oral Rehydration Salts i.e. ORS to combat the loss of water and body fluids through diarrhoea and dehydration.

In certain chronic conditions, the doctor may also prescribe some antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria from the intestines.


This bacterial infection can easily be avoided by following some of these precautionary measures:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water
  • Dispose of soiled or tissue papers used in the bathrooms properly
  • Advice children to wash their hands
  • Disinfect diaper-changing areas and bathrooms
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes or pools while swimming
  • Avoid cooking if you are suffering from diarrhoea