Shigella FAQ

What is Shigellosis?
Shigellosis is an intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Shigella.

What are the symptoms of Shigellosis?

Symptoms usually start 1 to 4 days after exposure. Symptoms typically last for 4 to 7 days and include:

  • Diarrhea (may be watery or bloody)
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration (loss of fluids), especially in young children and the elderly

How is it spread?

  • Shigella is present in the stool (bowel movements) of a person who is sick. It can remain in the stool for weeks after recovery.
  • Shigella spreads when hands, food, water or objects (toys, pens, etc.) become contaminated with the stool of an infected person and then get into someone else's mouth (for example when an infected person does not wash hands well after using the bathroom)
  • The bacteria can be spread by infected people even if they no longer have symptoms.

How is Shigellosis diagnosed and treated?

  • Shigella infection is diagnosed from a stool culture test.
  • Persons with milder illness recover without antibiotic treatment.
  • In some cases, antibiotics can be given to help the ill person get better faster and to shorten the length of time the person can spread infection to others.
  • Anti-diarrhea medications should not be used to treat Shigella infection and can make the illness worse.

How do I prevent the spread of Shigella?

  • Wash hands carefully with soap and warm water after each time you use the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing food and before eating.
  • People with shigellosis should not prepare or serve food or drinks for others until they have been free of diarrhea for at least two days or have been told it is safe by their healthcare provider or by Orange County Public Health.
  • Children with Shigella infection should not attend child care programs until they are cleared by Orange County Public Health.
  • Food handlers, child care workers and healthcare workers with direct patient care should not perform these activities until they are cleared by Orange County Public Health.

Please call the Health Care Agency at (714) 834-8180 if you have any questions about this information.