Shigellosis is an illness caused by bacteria called Shigella. People can get sick with shigellosis by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with Shigella, having contact with people who are already infected with Shigella, or swimming in water contaminated with the bacteria. Symptoms typically begin one to two days after contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea (which can sometimes be bloody). The illness can last up to a week and most people recover completely, although sometimes people are sick enough with shigellosis to be hospitalized.
Between 2010 and 2015, an average of four Vermonters per year with shigellosis were reported to the Vermont Department of Health. In 2014, the average rate of shigellosis across the country was 5.7 infections per 100,000 people. That same year, Vermont’s rate of infection was less than one infection per 100,000 people.
People who may be sick with shigellosis should contact their health care provider so that they can be tested and treated. Since Shigella bacteria can also be passed from one person to another, people with shigellosis should stay home from school or work while they are sick. People with a recent Shigella infection can continue to shed the bacteria in their stool even after their symptoms have gone away. For this reason, it is important that people who work in jobs where Shigella can be easily spread – such as food handlers, health care workers or day care providers – stop their work duties while they are still carrying the bacteria. Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water is also an effective way to prevent the spread of Shigella.