Shigellosis is a bacterial infection affecting the intestinal tract. Most cases are seen in the summer and early fall and occur as single cases or in association with outbreaks. Shigella case numbers can vary from year to year, in a cyclical pattern over 5-6 years.

Shigellosis Basics 

Symptoms of Shigellosis typically begin 1-2 days after exposure to the shigella bacteria and last 5 to 7 days. Some people experience symptoms from a few days to 4 or more weeks. For some people, it can take several months before their bowel habits return to normal. Most people who have shigellosis have diarrhea which is sometimes bloody, fever, and abdominal cramps. Some people who have shigellosis will not have any symptoms. 

People who are in poor health or have a weakened immune system, people who have HIV/AIDS, or are receiving chemotherapy are more likely to be sick for a longer period if they get Shigellosis. 

There are a few rare symptoms that can result from Shigellosis, these are post-infectious arthritis, blood infections, seizures, and hemolytic uremic syndrome. 

Shigella germs are found in the stool of people who are sick with shigellosis and for up to two weeks after the diarrhea has gone away. Shigella is extremely contagious, and a small amount can make someone sick. Shigella bacteria can be found in contaminated food and water, or surfaces contaminated with feces from infected humans.  

A stool sample must be tested for a person to be diagnosed with Shigellosis. Not everyone needs antibiotics to overcome the shigellosis infection, as symptoms resolve in 5-7 days without treatment. However, if you have bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramping, or fever then you should contact your healthcare provider. If you have a weakened immune system you need to contact your healthcare provider as you have a higher chance of becoming severely ill.  

To prevent dehydration, people with Shigellosis should drink plenty of fluids. If people suffer with bloody diarrhea, they should not use anti-diarrheal medication such as loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil) as these medications may make symptoms worse. 

Antibiotics can shorten the time people have fever and diarrhea by about 2 days. Ciprofloxacin and azithromycin are two recommended oral antibiotics to treat shigellosis. 

The best way to prevent Shigellosis is to practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water before eating food or preparing food, after going to the restroom or changing diapers. Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated swimming pools. When traveling internationally, wash hand with soap and water as well as following safe food and water guidelines. Avoid sexual contact with people who are sick or recently recovered from Shigellosis (several weeks). 

For more information, please refer to the CDC website:  

Shigellosis for Healthcare Professionals

Shigellosis is a reportable disease in Georgia. All laboratory positive results are reportable to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

For more information, please refer to the CDC website: 

Information for Healthcare Professionals | Shigella – Shigellosis | CDC 

Information for Sexually Active People

Shigella bacteria can be found in the stool of the person infected up to two weeks after diarrhea has gone away. Shigellosis is spread when people put something, such as hands, food or objects, in their mouths. Men who have sex with men are more likely to get infected with shigellosis. To prevent shigellosis, wait to have sexual contact for one to two weeks after diarrhea symptoms have stopped.  

For more information, please refer to the CDC website:  

Information for Parents of young children

Children 5 and under are most likely to get Shigellosis. In order to prevent Shigellosis, everyone should wash hands with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, or changing diapers. Do not share food with anyone if you or your child is sick. Keep your child home from daycare or school while sick. 

For more information, please refer to the CDC website:  

Information for Childcare Facilities

Children who recently recover from Shigellosis should be grouped together in a classroom to reduce spreading the Shigella bacteria to other children. Supervise children handwashing when they arrive, after they use the bathroom, after having diapers changed, after they play outside, and before they eat. Follow CDC recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting toys and surfaces. 

For more information, please refer to the CDC website:  

Information for International Travelers 

Traveling to developing countries increases the likelihood of getting shigellosis and getting a type of shigella that is more difficult to treat. To prevent Shigellosis people, need to practice good hand hygiene and follow safe food and water practices. People need to wash their hands before preparing and eating foods, after using the bathroom and changing a diaper. The food and drinks that may have shigella bacteria are raw fruits and vegetables, tap water, ice from tap water, unpasteurized dairy products and food and drink purchased from street vendors. Food that is deemed safe is steaming hot food, bottled and canned processed drinks, hot coffee and tea, as well as fruit that you peel yourself. 

For more information, please refer to the CDC website:  

Page updated 12/30/2022