Preventing Shigella Infection Among Sexually Active People

Key points

  • Shigella germs can spread easily to other people, especially during sexual activity.
  • It only takes a small amount of Shigella germs to make someone sick.
  • Know about ways to lower your risk of getting an infection.
young couple at the beach


Shigella is a germ that causes diarrhea. Shigella can be found in the poop (stool) of people with diarrhea and can continue to be found in their poop for up to 2 weeks after the diarrhea has gone away.

Shigella germs can spread easily to other people through the poop of an infected person or through sex with an infected person. The germs also can spread when people put something (such as a finger, food, or objects) in their mouth or swallow something that has come into contact with the poop of an infected person.

Did you know?‎

Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men are more likely than others to be infected by antimicrobial-resistant strains (types) of Shigella. Learn about antimicrobial resistance and Shigella infections.

Prevention steps and strategies

People with an infection might have Shigella on their skin in the anal and genital areas, including the thighs and buttocks. You cannot tell if someone has germs in these areas just by looking at the skin. Shigella that's on someone's skin, including on and around an infected person's anus, penis, vagina, butt, or thighs, can spread to people who touch the skin.

Practice safer sex

If you or your partner has bloody or prolonged diarrhea (diarrhea lasting more than 3 days), avoid having sex. To reduce the chance of Shigella spreading, wait at least 2 weeks after diarrhea ends to have sex.

  • Wash your hands, genitals, and anus with soap and water before and after sexual activity.
    • Sexual activity includes anal sex (penis-to-anus), oral sex (mouth-to-penis, mouth-to-vagina, mouth-to-anus), and vaginal sex (penis-to-vagina).
    • Sexual activity also includes anal, oral, and vaginal sex with shared toys that are not washed after each use.
  • If engaging in sexual activity, use barriers like condoms, natural rubber latex sheets, dental dams, or cut-open nonlubricated condoms during oral sex and oral-anal sex.
  • Wash sex toys with soap and water after each use and wash hands after touching used sex toys.
  • *The term "men who have sex with men" is used in CDC surveillance systems to indicate men who engage in sexual behavior that may spread Shigella; it does not indicate how people identify their sexuality.