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International Travelers

Travelers to developing countries may be more likely to get shigellosis and to become sick with types of Shigella that are more difficult to treat 1,2. Travelers may come into contact with food, water (both drinking and recreational water), people, or surfaces that have germs on them that could make them sick. Learn more about how to protect yourself from Shigella germs when traveling abroad.

How to Prevent Shigellosis While Traveling Abroad

Travelers can protect themselves by following these recommendations:

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  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
    • Wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather all surfaces of hands and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with clean, running water and dry with a clean towel or air dry them.
    • Wash hands at key times:
      • Before preparing or eating food
      • After using the bathroom
      • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
      • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Follow safe food and water practices.
    • Food and drinks that may have Shigella germs include raw fruits and vegetables, tap water, ice made from tap water, unpasteurized (raw) milk or dairy products, and items purchased from street vendors.
    • Food and drinks that are probably safe include steaming-hot foods, fruits you peel yourself, bottled and canned processed drinks, and hot coffee or tea. Learn more about smart food choices for travelers using Mobile Apps.
  • Before traveling, learn about ways travelers often get diarrhea and know what you can do to prevent getting sick.
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter medicine containing bismuth subsalicylate (for example, Pepto-Bismol) to help prevent or treat travelers’ diarrhea 3.
  • Shigellosis often resolves within 5–7 days without treatment. If possible, talk with a healthcare professional (such as your primary care physician) before starting antibiotics. Unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotic use increases the chance for resistant infections.
  • See a healthcare provider if you have diarrhea upon return to the United States.
References
  1. Kantele A, Lääveri T, Mero S, Vilkman K, Pakkanen SH, Ollgren J, Antikainen J, Kirveskari J. Antimicrobials increase travelers’ risk of colonization by extended-spectrum betalactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;60(6):837-46.
  2. O’Donnell AT, Vieira AR, Huang JY, Whichard J, Cole D, Karp BE. Quinolone-resistant Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis infections associated with international travel. Clin Infect Dis. 2014;59(9):e139-41.
  3. Behrens RH, Cramer JP, Jelinek T, Shaw H, von Sonnenburg F, Wilbraham D, Weinke T, Bell DJ, Asturias E, Pauwells HL, Maxwell R, Paredes-Paredes M, Glenn GM, Dewasthaly S, Stablein DM, Jiang ZD, DuPont HL. Efficacy and safety of a patch vaccine containing heat-labile toxin from Escherichia coli against travellers’ diarrhoea: a phase 3, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled field trial in travellers from Europe to Mexico and Guatemala. Lancet Infect Dis. 2014;14(3):197-204.
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