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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Shigella

What is Shigella?

Shigella is the bacterium that causes the disease shigellosis, also known as bacillary dysentery. Shigella is one of the most easily transmitted bacterial diarrheas, since it can occur after fewer than 100 bacteria are ingested.

Shigella bacteria are generally transmitted through a fecal-oral route.  Foods that come into contact with human or animal waste can transmit Shigella. Thus, handling toddlers’ diapers, eating vegetables from a field contaminated with sewage, or drinking pool water are all activities that can lead to shigellosis.

What are the symptoms of Shigella food poisoning?

Symptoms of Shigella poisoning most commonly develop one to three days after exposure to Shigella bacteria, and usually go away within five to seven days. It is also possible to get Shigella but experience no symptoms, and still be contagious to others, a condition known as being asymptomatic.

Common symptoms of shigellosis, the illness caused by the ingestion of Shigella bacteria, include diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe and is bloody in 25 o 50 percent of cases; fever; stomach cramps; and rectal spasms.

Complications from Shigella

Complications from shigellosis can include severe dehydration, seizures in small children, rectal bleeding, and invasion of the blood stream by the bacteria. Young children and the elderly are at the highest risk of death.

Approximately 3 percent of patients with Shigella infection, most often those omfected with Shigella flexneri, develop Reactive Arthritis. It occurs when the immune system attempts to combat Shigella but instead attacks the body. Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis include inflammation of the joints, eyes, or reproductive or urinary organs. On average, symptoms appear 18 days after infection.

In rare instances, Shigella results in hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which is more commonly a complication of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections. HUS can lead to kidney failure.

You can learn more about Shigella at Foodborneillness.com.