Shigellosis is a bacterial infection causing fever, diarrhea (bloody stool) and severe abdominal cramps. Most of the time, the symptoms will resolve on its own without wanting any treatment. Shigella can be contracted by other members by touching the fecal particles that contains bacteria. People working in day care centers are prone to pass on this infection by not washing hands properly while changing diapers. Children of age group 2-4 are more prone to get this bacterial infection. The infection can be fully treated by powerful antibiotics.
Shigella is a group of bacteria that causes shigellosis infection. This family of microbe was first discovered by Japanese scientist Shiga and hence this name. Though there are many kinds of shigella bacteria like Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri etc. it is the “Group B” shigella bacteria that cause this infection.
There are 3 possible ways by which a child/person contracts this infectious bacterium.
- One is by touching the eyes/nose or mouth after changing the diaper for children and not washing the hands properly. The bacteria is present in the feces of the child which gets into the body by direct skin contact. Toddlers who are not toilet trained may not wash their hands properly and pass on the infection to other children who play with them.
- Second is by eating contaminated food. In restaurants and hotels, people (with this infection) can pass on the infectious bacteria to many people while handling food.
- Third method of transmitting the infection is by drinking contaminated water that contains shigella infection.
The initial symptoms of Shigellosis begin in a day or two after getting infected. Some of the prominent symptoms of this disease are mild fever, headache, diarrhea (that contains bloody stool) and abdominal cramps. Many people may not have any symptoms but still may carry the infectious bacteria in their feces.
Having diarrhea with blood discharge is the best way to identify this infection. Your doctor may order for testing of stool sample to confirm the diagnoses.
Who are at risk?
Toddlers (who are not toilet trained), people who are working in day care centers (handling diapers), workers employed in hospitals, nursing homes, and any group of people who have close contact with others (like those in jails and military barracks are likely to spread infection even if one person is infected) and gay population who are sexually active with other men with infection have increased risk of getting infected.
Shigellosis does not create any complications and the symptoms would clear up within a week or two even without any treatment. In rare cases it may cause dehydration (due to continuous diarrhea), seizures (due to high fever), rectal prolapse (due to excess of strain caused by bowel movements), toxic megacolon and reactive arthritis.
For mild form of infection, no treatment is required. In moderate cases you will be given antibiotics like amphicillin trimethoprim or sulfamethoxazole or ciprofloxacin. Sometimes the bacteria become resistant to antibiotics when the infection spreads in a community.
It is true that affected child/adult will get back to normalcy within a week, but the bowel habits may take some time to become normal. For some it may take several weeks or month for getting back the right bowel habit. Some people may develop joint pains due to infection of shigella which is known as post infectious arthritis. Good news about shigellosis is any person who gets this disease become resistant to this particular type of bacteria and hence will not get infected again for several years.
Home Remedies :
If you are a healthy adult it is enough if you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to arrest diarrhea. In case of children Pedialyte can be given to balance the loss of water.
- No vaccine is available for preventing shigellosis.
- One can take precautions for not getting infected by shigella.
- Workers employed in day care centers should wash their hands thoroughly to prevent spreading infection to others.
- Children should be instructed to wash their hands with soap water after using toilet.
- People who are working in restaurants should abstain themselves from duty if they have diarrhea.
- Do not send your child to school or day care center if they have diarrhea.
- Avoid drinking contaminated water.