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Disease Focus: Shigella
Shigella – A Brief

By Nicole Kraatz

Shigella is a type of bacteria that can be grouped into four different categories. One of the most common infections caused by the bacteria is Shigellosis. This disease infects the lining of the intestines and is transmitted via the oral-fecal route. Because of this, any water, food or fomites contaminated with shigella can cause symptoms of the disease to occur. The bacteria can also be spread via person to person. Shigella was first discovered in 1897 by Kiyoshi Shiga, a Japanese scientist. He discovered the bacteria after an outbreak of over 90,000 Japanese citizens were infected.

The incubation period for Shigellosis is anywhere from one to seven days, with the average onset of symptoms beginning around day three. The main symptom of the disease is diarrhea, which is normally bloody or filled with mucous. Since the disease affects the gastrointestinal system, other symptoms of the disease include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting  and high fever. In more severe cases, children under the age of two that are infected with the shigella bacteria and experience high fever may result in convulsions or seizures. However, not all people infected with the disease will show symptoms but it is still possible for those that are asymptomatic to spread the disease to others. Those most vulnerable to Shigellosis include people in developing countries were sanitation and sewage systems are poor and for travelers visiting those countries.

In order to treat many cases of Shigellosis, patients need to rehydrate and replace electrolytes lost due to constant diarrhea. Some cases may be resolved within four to seven days without treatment. However, those with more severe cases may need to replace electrolytes intravenously. Others may cure themselves by drinking plenty of fluids. Antibiotics may also be given to shorten the life of the bacteria in the body’s system. Currently, there are no cures or vaccinations for Shigellosis, but prevention of the disease include hand washing, clean drinking water and sewage systems.


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