Preventing Shigella Infection While Traveling

What to know

  • Travelers to places where water, food, and sanitation may be unsafe are more likely to get a Shigella infection (shigellosis).
  • They are also more likely to become sick with types of Shigella that are more difficult to treat.
  • Shigella germs can spread to travelers through food, water (both drinking and recreational water), surfaces, and even other people.
young traveler

Protect yourself while traveling abroad

You can take steps before and during your trip to help prevent illness.

Before your trip

During your trip

  • Keep your hands clean.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially at these key times:
      • Before, during, and after preparing food
      • Before and after 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
    • If clean, running water and soap are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Remember, hand sanitizers may not be as effective if hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • Follow safe food and water practices.
    • Avoiding unsafe food and water may be difficult when traveling abroad. In these instances, avoid eating and drinking raw fruits and vegetables, tap water, ice made from tap water, unpasteurized (raw) milk or dairy products, and items purchased from street vendors.
    • These foods and drinks are usually safe: steaming hot foods, fruits you peel yourself, bottled and canned processed drinks, and hot coffee or tea.


Learn about the health risks for diarrhea at your destination and know what steps you can take to prevent getting ill.

What to look out for

Travelers' diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. It can be caused by Shigella and many other harmful germs. Symptoms are usually mild and go away within several hours to days without antibiotics.

  • If you have diarrhea,
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Several drugs, such as loperamide, can be bought over-the-counter to treat the symptoms of diarrhea. Consider taking an over-the-counter medicine to decrease how much and how often you need to use the bathroom.
    • Only take antibiotics if you have severe symptoms or are in a group of people who have a greater chance of severe illness. Take them exactly as the doctor prescribed.
  • See a doctor or healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms, including:
    • Bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days.
    • High fever (temperature over 102°F, measured in your mouth).
    • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration).
    • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up.