What is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacterial infection that causes severe stomach upset. It is passed on through infected faeces (poo) - this can be through contaminated food or sexually. It can be effectively treated with a course of antibiotics.

How is Shigella passed on?

Only a small amount needs to get into your mouth to pass it on. Sex that may involve contact with faeces is a risk e.g. touching someone’s backside with your fingers, rimming, handling a condom or sex toys, or fisting.

What are the symptoms?

Although some men experience no symptoms at all, Shigella may cause painful stomach cramping and diarrhoea. In severe cases, your poo can contain blood or mucus. In addition, you might also have a fever or experience nausea and vomiting.

When do symptoms start?

Symptoms usually start after one to three days but can sometimes take longer. However, an individual can be infectious with Shigella for up to a month.

What should I do if I think I might have Shigella?

Arrange an appointment for the Steve Retson Project at the Sandyford. Explain that you may have picked up a stomach infection from sex, possibly Shigella. That way we will know which tests to give you.

How will I be treated?

The infection can be treated with antibiotics, although not everyone will need them. You will be advised to drink lots of fluids, to stop you losing too much water.

I have diarrhoea, what should I do?

If you think you may have Shigella you should have a test to find out. Regardless of occupation or the type of job you do, we'd advise you not to go to work or college/university if you have diarrhoea until 48 hours after it has settled.

If your work involves handling food or contact with patients, you should not go back to work until tests have ruled out Shigella. If your result is positive, wait at least 48 hours after symptoms stop before going back to work, or until a health professional says so.

You may be infectious for up to a month, so wash hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet and before touching food. Avoid preparing food for others while you’re ill, or until a week after symptoms stop.

Wash your clothes, bedding and towels on the highest setting of the washing machine.

If you have diarrhoea you should avoid:

  • Sex, until a week after symptoms stop;
  • Sharing towels and use separate towels at home. Frequently clean taps, door handles, the toilet flush and seat with hot soapy water;
  • Jacuzzis/hot tubs/spas. You might contaminate and infect others.

How can I avoid getting Shigella?

  • Skin on the buttocks, around the backside or groin may carry the bacteria, so avoid licking these areas. Showering after sex is better than washing.
  • Wash your hands during or after sex, especially if you’re rimming, touching someone’s backside, or handling used condoms or sex toys.
  • Wear condoms for anal sex.
  • Latex gloves offer protection if fingering or fisting.
  • For barrier protection when rimming, cut a condom up into a square.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys or douching equipment.

Where can I get help?

If you think you might have Shigella, get a check up at Steve Retson Project or a Sandyford sexual health service. Click on the services link for check up options.