Shigella: What is it, what are the symptoms, how can you catch it and how to avoid passing on the infection

Shigella bacteria
Shigella bacteria
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Shigella is a bacteria which can cause bacillary dysentery or shigellosis which is the most common type of dysentery in the UK.

Dysentery (shigellosis) is a highly infectious diseases that can be passed on from the faeces of an infected person, usually affecting groups of people in close contact, such as in families, schools and nurseries.

What are the symptoms?

This highly infectious condition can cause diarrhoea which may contain blood or mucus, painful stomach cramps, fever and nausea or vomiting.

How can it be passed on?

Dysentery can be passed on if you don't take the right precautions, such as properly and regularly washing your hands.

How to avoid passing on the infection?

• Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after going to the toilet is the most efective way to stop the spread of infection.

• Until you are completely free of infection it is best to stay away from work or school for at least 48 hours.

• Make sure young children wash their hands properly.

• Don't prepare food for others or go swimming until you've been free of symptom for at least 48 hours, it is also recommended to avoid sexual contact for the same period.

• Wash all your dirty clothes, bedding and towels on the hottest setting.

• Clean toilet seats and toilet bowls, and flush handles, taps and sinks with detergent and hot water after use, followed by a household disinfectant.

Should I see my GP and what is the treatment?

It is not always necessary to see your GP as infection can clear up after a few days, however, you should see your GP if the symptoms are severe or do not begin to improve.

In severe cases a GP may prescribe antibiotics.

If your symptoms are not severe, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol to relieve pain and fever.

You can find more information about dysentery on the NHS website here