Shigellosis

[shig·el·lo·sis]

Person holding stomach with intestinal graphic overlay

Shigellosis is a diarrheal disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most people get shigellosis after having close contact with an infected person, eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and putting their finger in their mouth. Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain, and symptoms usually last up to 7 days. Shigella germs spread easily from person to person. The best way to prevent this spread is to practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Shigella infections cause about 450,000 cases of diarrhea in the United States each year, and treatment results in an estimated $93 million in direct annual medical costs.
  • Most people get shigellosis after having close contact with an infected person or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain, and symptoms usually last up to 7 days.
  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from Shigella infection.

Media

Mother making sandwiches with young son and daughter
Just a Few Shigella Germs Can Make You Sick

Shigella is difficult to control because it spreads easily and rapidly between people, making the bacteria highly contagious. Protect yourself by practicing good hygiene and learning about the risks for infection.

Mom and child washing hands and smiling
Wash Your Hands. Teach Kids to Do the Same.

Handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid becoming sick with shigellosis. Carefully wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food and eating, and after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Young boy submerged in water
Don’t Swallow the Water

Shigella germs are spread easily in food and water. Avoid swallowing water from swimming pools, splash pads, ponds, rivers, and lakes. If you are sick (or were recently sick) with shigellosis, help protect others from getting sick by staying out of the water.

Two men sitting on stairs together
Practice Safe Sex

Shigella germs can spread during oral or anal sex, and anal play (rimming or fingering). Protect yourself and your partner by washing your hands and body with soap and water, before and after sex. Be sure to use condoms and other barriers during sex.

People walking through airport with suitcases
Follow Safe Eating and Drinking Habits When Traveling

When traveling internationally, stick to safe eating and drinking habits, and wash your hands often with soap and water.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or preparing food for others, and after using the toilet or changing diapers. Make handwashing a family activity by teaching kids when and how to wash their hands too.
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or swimming pools.
  • Avoid sexual activity with those who have diarrhea or recently (several weeks) recovered from shigellosis. Use barriers during sex, such as condoms and dental dams, and wash your hands, genitals, and anus before and after sexual activity.
  • When traveling internationally, stick to safe eating and drinking habits, and wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Follow recommended steps to safe and healthy diapering.
    • Clean up any leaks or spills of diaper contents right away.
    • Throw away soiled diapers in a covered, lined garbage can.
    • Wash your hands (and the child’s hands) immediately after the diapers are changed.
Page last reviewed: August 25, 2020