Shigella Infection

1 What is Shigella Infection?

Shigella infection is an intestinal disease caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella. Bloody diarrhea is the main sign of shigella infection.

Shigella infection can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool. This can happen in child care setting when staff members don’t wash their hands after changing diapers or helping toddlers using toilet.

Shigella bacteria can also be passed in contaminated food. And swimming in contaminated water. children between ages of 2-4 are most likely to get shigella infection. In mild cases there is no requirement of treatment but in severe cases doctors might prescribe antibiotics. 

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of shigella infection start after a day or two after contracting with shigella but in some cases it might start as late as a week. Common signs and symptoms include:

Although some people show no symptoms after being infected with shigella their feces still remain contagious for few weeks.

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3 Causes

Shigella infection is caused when someone accidentally swallows shigella bacteria. This can happen in the following conditions:

  • Touch your mouth: improper hygienic conditions such as not washing hands after changing diaper of child. Direct person to person contact is the most common way of spreading in this disease.
  • Consumption of contaminated food: when the food is not cooked properly or contaminated by feces this can cause transmission of shigella.
  • Drinking contaminated water: water may become contaminated either from sewage or from person to person while swimming.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of shigella infection is done during lab exam.

Diarrhea and bloody diarrhea can occur in many disease but taking sample of the stool and sending it for laboratory examination for the presence of shigella will confirm the diagnosis of shigellosis.

5 Treatment

Replacing lost fluids from diarrhea may be all treatment required for shigella infection. Particularly if general health is good and infection is mild.

Shigella infection usually runs its course in five to seven days.

Antibiotics- for severe shigella infection antibiotics which are directed against bacteria are used. However, some shigella bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.  

Fluid salt replacement – for healthy adults, drinking salt water might be just enough to counteract this infection. Children may benefit from oral rehydration therapy.

Pedialyte is the most common oral rehydration mixture. In children who are severely dehydrates they will receive fluids and salts intravenously. 

6 Prevention

Preventing shigella infection can be achieved by maintaining hygienic standards.

To prevent shigella infection following measures must be taken:

  • wash hands frequently and thoroughly,
  • supervise small children when they wash their hands,
  • dispose diapers properly,
  • disinfect diaper changing areas after use,
  • don’t cook food for others if suffering from diarrhea,
  • avoid swallowing water from swimming pools and water ponds,
  • avoid sexual activity with anyone suffering from diarrhea

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Alternatives and home remedies for shifella infection include drinking lots of water and oral rehydration solutions to compensate the water loss.

Bactericidal properties of turmeric can be useful in this case. Just add a pinch of turmeric to food while cooking food.

Garlic can also be added to food to provide some relief. Although no home remedies are recommended over conservative therapy.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Since shigella infection is not a severe disease and mild lifestyle changes such as drinking lots of water and maintaining hygienic lifestyle can improve shigellosis.

This infection will cure within a week and everything can become normal after this intestinal infection. 

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with shigella infection.

Risk factors include:

  • Being a toddler- shigella infection is most common in children between the ages of 2and 4 years.
  • Living in group housing or participating in group activities- shigella breakouts are most common in child care centers, community wading pools, nursing homes, jails and military barracks.
  • Living or travelling to areas which lack sanitation- people who live or travel in developing countries are more likely to contract shigella infection.
  • Being a sexually active gay male- having oral anal sex with male can increase the risk of contracting shigella infection. Shigella infection usually clears out without any medical intervention.

Some of the complications are:

  • Dehydration- persistent diarrhea can cause dehydration. Symptoms include lightheadedness, dizziness, sunken eyes and dry diapers.
  • Seizures- some children who run high fevers with shigella infection may have episodes of seizures. Although, it is not known that fever is because of fever or shigella infection.
  • Rectal prolapse- in this condition expulsion of mucous membranes out along with feces happens.
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome- this rare complication of shigella is caused by bacteria called E coli, can lead to a low red blood cell count, low platelet counts and acute kidney failure.
  • Toxic megacolon- this is a rare complication in which part of the colon becomes paralyzed preventing to have bowel movements and accumulating gas.
  • Reactive arthritis- reactive arthritis develops in response to infection. Signs and symptoms include joint pain and inflammation in knees, ankles and hips.
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