Shigella Bacteria: Symptoms of Shigellosis, Treatment, and More

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Mar. 7 2023, Published 3:05 p.m. ET

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Even though another viral disease probably isn't what you want to hear about at this moment in time, it's important to be aware of the symptoms associated with Shigella bacteria.

Shigella bacteria is most commonly associated with that people refer to as "the stomach bug." It causes a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms, and unfortunately, it's currently on the rise in the U.S. — and over the years, it's become more increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Great.

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The CDC issued a health warning about the viral disease last week, after there were several reports of the stomach ailment across the country. As of publication, no hospitalizations have occurred.

“We've seen an increase in... what we call gastroenteritis, probably about a 23 percent increase in the last couple of weeks and the number of people coming into Centracare with intestinal symptoms,” stated Dr. Timothy Hendryx, the medical director of Adventhealth Centracare, as per WUSF.

Even though the disease isn't new, the CDC is becoming increasingly worried about the illness' growing drug resistance.

"We're seeing more drug resistance by Shigella and salmonella, salmonella and E. coli, etc. These types of intestinal bacteria because all bacteria are now developing, and you know this resistance to certain types of antibiotics," Hendrix continued. That said, knowing the symptoms and treatment options is crucial at this moment in time.

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What are the symptoms associated with Shigella bacteria, and Shigellosis?

Unfortunately, Shigella spread easily — it takes just one infected person in a household or classroom to make everyone sick. It can spread by getting the bacteria on your hands and touching your mouth, or if you eat something someone with the infection prepared.

Per the CDC, it can be transmitted through contaminated drinking or swimming water, or through sex with someone who has it, particularly by being exposed to their poop. Symptoms usually surface within 1 to 2 days after exposure.

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But what are the symptoms of Shigellosis?

The most common ones are: diarrhea (which is also sometimes bloody), fever, stomach pain, and feeling constipated — which can last for up to a week. According to the CDC, some won't show symptoms, and others will experience severe symptoms, such as dehydration, severe stomach cramps, and prolonged diarrhea. Those with severe symptoms, or those who are immunocompromised, should contact a doctor.

And people are contagious for a while. As per the CDC, those with Shigellosis can spread the infection for weeks after recovery.

Shigella bacteria has evidently been around for years — according to WoodTV, it was discovered amid a breakout of dystentery in Japan in 1896, by Kiyoshi Shiga. But because it's on the rise, and becoming more drug-resistant, it's making headlines again.

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Shigella treatment options, as Shigellosis is becoming resistant to antibiotics:

Since 2015, 5 percent of Shigella have built up a tolerance to antibiotics. According to WoodTV, this is because doctors are overprescribing antibiotics such as azithromycin and ciprofloxacin, even when people don't have bacterial infections.

For treatment, doctors just recommend staying away from others and staying hydrated. In severe cases, doctors may resort to antibiotics, but they are only becoming less helpful.

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To avoid coming into contact with the virus and spreading the disease, as per WoodTV, doctors recommend washing your hands thoroughly (especially after using the bathroom); using a condom, especially if engaging in anal sex; avoiding sex if your partner recently had diarrhea; and drinking bottled water if traveling to an endemic area.

More information in the video, below.

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Shigella vs. norovirus: what's the difference?

Recently, cases of norovirus have skyrocketed, too. A school was completely closed for a week in Detroit because of an outbreak. But are Shigella and norovirus the same thing?

According to ABC 6, they actually aren't the same. Shigella and norovirus are two different types of stomach bugs — and they're unfortunately both on the rise right now. But the symptoms are slightly different.

Treatment is somewhat similar for both illnesses, involving lots of hydrating, resting, and self-isolating. But timing with symptoms is a little different. Norovirus tends to start with vomiting, which progresses to diarrhea. Meanwhile, Shigella tends to involve less vomiting, and more diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Regardless, we hope you experience neither ailment during these ongoing outbreaks... keep washing your hands, y'all.

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