What is shigellosis?

Shigellosis is a gastrointestinal infection caused by the bacterium Shigella. There are four kinds of Shigella that can cause illness, but the two most commonly identified in Vermont are Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri.

What are the symptoms of shigellosis?

Symptoms of shigellosis usually begin from one to three days after the bacteria have been swallowed. Shigellosis typically begins with fever, abdominal pain and watery diarrhea. After a day or more, the diarrhea may become bloody. Some people may have mild infections with only some of the symptoms, or may not
have any symptoms at all. Most people are sick for four to seven days. More severe illness may occur in young children and people with other health problems.

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How do people get shigellosis?

People become infected by swallowing the bacteria. This can happen in several different ways:

How is shigellosis diagnosed?

Many different kinds of diseases can cause diarrhea, and treatment depends on the specific disease. Shigellosis is diagnosed by a laboratory test called a stool culture. Your health care provider will give you the special container you need to collect a stool specimen. It usually takes several days before the test results are ready.

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How is shigellosis treated?

In general, people who are otherwise healthy recover without medical treatment. Your health care provider will decide whether treatment is necessary, depending on the severity of the infection, and whether you work in a job where there is a high risk of passing the disease to others. Treatment may include fluid replacement when there are signs of dehydration, and antibacterial therapy to shorten the duration of the illness.

Can shigellosis be prevented?

Some general guidelines to prevent getting shigellosis are:

Are there recommendations for people in certain occupations?

People with known or suspected shigellosis should not work in high-risk occupations (including food
handlers, child or patient care providers or post-pasteurization dairy processing plant workers) until they
have completed treatment and no longer have symptoms. Individuals in high-risk occupations who were
not treated must have two consecutive negative laboratory tests, collected 48 hours apart, before returning
to work.

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