Shigella is a type of dysentery that can cause diarrhoea containing blood or mucus.
It is highly contagious and can be passed on if people do not take the right precautions when using the toilet.
What is shigellosis and what are the symptoms?
Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.
Among the nasty effects of shigella or shigellosis are
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Painful stomach cramps
- High temperature (fever)
The symptoms tend to last for around five to seven days.
The diarrhoea can often lead to dehydration as well.
How is the bug spread?
The NHS says it is spread through poor hygiene, for example not washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
Shigellosis can be passed from direct contact with someone infected, or from doorknobs and toilet handles that they have touched.
In the UK, most cases are spread through families and where people are in close contact, such as schools and workplaces.
What do you do if have contracted the bug?
Shigella can be very unpleasant but is rarely serious.
Treatment is mainly with fluids to prevent or treat lack of fluid in the body (dehydration).
In cases where there is blood in the diarrhoea (dysentery), antibiotic medicines are usually needed.
It is important that if a child develops Shigellosis symptoms, the family GP is contacted.
Children who have picked up the illness are being told to remain at home for at least five days until tests show they are clear.
How can you stop it spreading?
- Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet. Ideally, use liquid soap in warm running water but any soap is better than none. Dry properly after washing
- If a potty has to be used, wear gloves when you handle it, dispose of the contents into a toilet, then wash the potty with hot water and detergent and leave it to dry
- Don't share towels and flannels
- Don't prepare or serve food for others
- Regularly clean with disinfectant the toilets that you use.
- With hot water and detergent, wipe the flush handle, toilet seat, bathroom taps, surfaces and door handles at least once a day. Keep a cloth just for cleaning the toilet (or use a disposable one each time)
- Stay off work, school, college, etc, until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting
- Avoid contact with other people as far as possible during this time
What gets rid of the bug?
Medication is not usually needed as the bug goes away within five to seven days.
Occasionally, admission to hospital is needed if symptoms are severe, or if complications develop.
Medicines to reduce the diarrhoea (such as loperamide) should NOT be used if you have shigella. This is because they can make the symptoms worse.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen is useful to ease a high temperature (fever) or headache.
Who catches the bug?
The highest rate of shigellosis is observed among children under four years old.
In adults, the male-to-female ratio in the UK is as high as 4.7 to 1. This is believed to be due to sexual transmission among men who have sex with men.
For more information go to the NHS website.