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Shigella Infection – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Introduction 

Shigella infection is an infection caused by a family of bacteria known as Shigella. This bacteria affects the intestines and is very contagious. It can occur at any age and often infects children.

What is shigella infection?

Shigella infection or shigellosis is a bacterial infection that infects the digestive system, particularly the intestines. It is caused by a group of bacteria known as Shigella. The shigella bacteria may enter the body through the food or water in the environment and cause diarrhea. 

It is a highly contagious disease and may occur in both toddlers and adults. The infection may vary in intensity, and mild shigellosis may not even require medical treatment. However, if you have severe diarrhea that does not go away in 3 days, you may need to consult a doctor.

What are the symptoms associated with the infection?

Symptoms typically appear 1 or 2 days after you contract the bacteria. A few symptoms associated with it are:

Symptoms may last for a week after you contract the infection. Some people may notice no symptoms, but their feces may still carry the infection. 

What are the causes of shigella infection?

The causes are as follows:

  • Direct contact: Shigella infection is a highly contagious infection. The most common way to contract the infection is by coming in direct contact with an infected person. For example, if you do not wash your hands after changing the diaper or cleaning after an infected child, you may also be at risk of getting infected.
  • Eating contaminated food: Eating food prepared by people infected with Shigella bacteria may cause infection. Food may also contain Shigella bacteria if contaminated with sewage.
  • Drinking contaminated water: Swimming or drinking water that contains Shigella bacteria may also spread the infection.

When to see a doctor?

If you see any symptoms mentioned above or come in contact with an infected person, consult your doctor immediately. Your doctor may perform some tests to confirm the diagnosis. To know more about the infection or for immediate consultation, 

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What are the treatment options available for Shigella infection?

Dehydration is the most common complication of Shigella. Drinking lots of fluids is the best way to combat dehydration. Your doctor may also advise you to drink electrolyte solutions. Other treatment options available are as follows:

  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the shigella bacteria and stop the spread of the disease. 
  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement: For generally healthy adults, drinking water may be enough to contain the dehydration that diarrhea due to Shigella infection causes. Adults and children severely dehydrated need treatment in emergency room of a hospital, where they will be able to get salts and fluids through a vein. 

What are the complications associated?

If left untreated, the following complications may arise due to the Shigella infection:

Conclusion

Shigella infection or shigellosis is a commonly occurring disease. If you observe any bleeding in your stools, have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, or feel cramps and pain, consult a physician. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can it be prevented?

There are many measures you can take to prevent shigella infection. They are:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Keep distance from an infected person
  • Drink only boiled water
  • Avoid eating street food

How do you test for Shigella?

Your treating doctor may take a sample of your stool and send it to the laboratory to test for the type of bacteria. If the diagnosis confirms the presence of Shigella then your doctor will prescribe the treatment. 

Can you get infected with Shigella twice?

Once you suffered a Shigella infection, some level of immunity develops, which means that the person may not to get infected with that specific type again for at least many years. However, this temporary immunity does not protect against other types of Shigella.

How long does shigella infection last?

If you have a mild infection, the symptoms may last for 3 – 4 days. However, in cases of severe infection, the symptoms may be present for three weeks and require medical attention. 

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