Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Shigella. Shigella are microscopic living creatures that pass from person to person. Every year, about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported in the U.S. Shigellosis is commonly contracted or transferred among people in settings where hygiene is poor. Shigellosis is usually the result of the bacterium passing from stools or dirty fingers of one person to the mouth of another person. Children are the most common victims of shigellosis. People also develop shigellosis from eating contaminated foods, which usually look and smell normal. Foods may become contaminated by food handlers, who either did not wash their hands or not well enough, because they did not receive proper food safety training.
Improper food safety procedures can lead to shigellosis food poisoning outbreaks. Vegetables, for example, can become contaminated if they are harvested near sewage. People with a mild case of shigellosis can usually recover on their own, but appropriate antibiotic treatment kills Shigella bacteria quickly and effectively, hence shortening the infection period. Shigellosis can have some long term effects as well as causing pain in joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.
Symptoms of Shigellosis usually begin 1 to 3 days after exposure (range, 12 hours to 4 days) and include:
- diarrhea (often bloody)
- abdominal pain and cramps
- joint pain
- eye irritation
- painful urination