What is shigellosis?
Shigellosis is a fairly common diarrheal illness affecting the intestinal tract. It is caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most cases are seen in the summer and early fall and occur as single cases or outbreaks.

Where are Shigella bacteria found?
Shigella can be found in the intestinal tract of infected people who in turn may contaminate food or water.

How do these bacteria spread?
Shigella bacteria are spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by direct contact of an infected person. Infection may occur after ingestion of very few (10-100) organisms.

Who gets shigellosis?
Anyone can get shigellosis, but it is recognized more often in young children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. Those who may be at greater risk include children in day care centers, foreign travelers to certain countries, institutionalized people, and men who have sex with men.

What are the symptoms of shigellosis?
People infected with Shigella may experience mild or severe diarrhea (often bloody)often with fever, nausea, and abdominal pain. Some infected people may show mild illness or no symptoms. Once infected with shigella, their feces are contagious.

How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms usually appear 1 to 2 days after becoming infected with the bateria.

How long can an infected person carry Shigella?
People can pass Shigella in their stool for up to 4 weeks. Certain antibiotics may shorten the carrier phase.

Should an infected person be excluded from school or work?
Shigella is passed in the stool of an infected person, those with active diarrhea or those who are unable to control their bowel habits should be excluded from work or school. Most infected people may return to work or school after the diarrhea ends, provided they carefully wash their hands after toilet visits. Because of the extremely small infective dose, food handlers and persons who provide direct patient care should have two consecutive negative stool samples before returning to regular work activities. Day care attendees should receive antimicrobial therapy and should not return to the day care center until the diarrhea has ceased and two consecutive stool samples are negative for Shigella.

What is the treatment for shigellosis?
Most people with shigellosis will recover on their own. Some may require fluids to prevent dehydration. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is the first antibiotic of choice to treat adults infected with Shigella. Antibiotics are occasionally used to treat severe cases or to shorten the carrier phase which may be important for food handlers, children in day care, or institutionalized individuals.

On April 2, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an announcement regarding the spread of multidrug-resistant shigellosis in the United States. For additional information concerning multidrug-resistant shigellosis please visit the CDC website.

How can shigellosis be prevented?

  • Wash hands with soap and water carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
  • Dispose of soiled diapers properly; disinfect diaper-changing areas after using them.
  • Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings.
  • Persons with diarrhea should not prepare food for others.
  • Avoid sexual practices that result in contact with feces.




This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.



For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.