Shigella is a bacterium that can cause severe diarrhea or gastroenteritis in humans. Shigella is named after a Japanese scientist named Shiga who discovered the bacteria.
Shigellosis, also known as dysentery, is the illness caused by swallowing or ingesting anything that is contaminated with Shigella bacteria. Shigella infections can also be transmitted by drinking, swimming in or playing with the water contaminated by the bacteria. The bacteria are usually present in the stools of the infected individual while they are sick a week or more. Typically Shigella infections are transmitted through a fecal-oral route.
Shigellosis is common during the summer season and usually affects kids 2 to 4 years old. Shigellosis is usually resolved in 5 to 7 days.
When the poisonous substance from Shigella bacteria attacks the lining of the large intestine, it causes swelling and ulcers on the intestinal wall and bloody diarrhea. The bacteria grow vigorously in the human intestine and usually spread through food and contact with the person infected. It causes a wide range of symptoms from diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramping and nausea, fever and to more serious complications.
Some other serious complications of Shigellosis but said to more rare include:
• Proctitis and Rectal Prolapse – These are two conditional problems that involve that rectal lining. Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectum lining and rectal prolapsed is a condition wherein the rectal tissue of an individual protrudes out his anus.
• Toxic Megacolon – Also known as toxic colitis, a rare complication of shigellosis which occurs when the colon becomes paralyzed that prevents bowel movements.
• Reactive Arthritis – When an individual is infected with shigellosis it may later develop joint swelling and pain, eye irritation and sometimes painful in urinating.
How to Treat Shigella
If your general health is good and the shigella infection is mild, it usually runs its course in 5 to 7 days, and drinking lots of fluids may be all the treatment that you may need to replenish the lost fluid from diarrhea.
Anti-diarrheal drugs such as loperamide (Imodium) and diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil) may worsen the infection and these drugs should be avoided.
Some Shigella bacteria became resistant to some antibiotics. It simply means that some antibiotics might not be effective for treatment. It is said that antibiotics are only used to treat the most severe cases. The best way to determine which antibiotic treatment is effective for this type of infection the infected person must obtain a stool culture and do sensitivity tests. Consult your physician right way.
Antibiotics commonly used for treating shigella infection are ampicilin, ceftriaxone (Rocephin), trimethoprim (Bactrim), sulfamethoxazole (Septra) or ciprofloxacin among adults.
Shigella Infection Prevention
There is still no known vaccine to prevent shigellosis. To prevent shigella infection here are some preventive measures:
• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap to prevent the spread of the bacteria is very important.
• Drink only treated water.
• If swimming in the pool, make sure that the chlorine level is at least 0.5 PPM. It doesn’t hurt to ask the pool maintenance personnel.
• Children with diarrhea should never be allowed to swim in a public swimming area, as it may cause the spread of the infection.
• Avoid swallowing pool water.
• Properly dispose of used diapers.
• Disinfect diaper-changing areas after use.
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