updated 11 months ago in HIV and STIs

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What is Shigella?

Shigella is the name of a group of bacteria that cause a bowel infection, which can affect anyone.

How do you get Shigella?

Shigella is highly infectious and spreads through the faecal matter (shit) of a person who has the infection. This means it can spread when even tiny amounts enter the mouth. This can include:

  • during rimming or arse play
  • touching your mouth after handling used sex toys or used condoms
  • touching your mouth after fingering or fisting someone
  • not washing your hands after going to the toilet
  • eating food or using utensils that have been handled by someone with shigella

What are the symptoms of Shigella?

Some guys will have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms usually appear 1-3 days after exposure. These may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea (possibly including blood or mucous)
  • stomach cramps
  • fever
  • dizziness

How do I get tested for Shigella?

A Shigella test involves a swab from your arse or a sample of your faeces (shit) for laboratory testing.

You can get tested at your regular doctor or sexual health service.

How is Shigella treated?

Shigella will normally clear on its own. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. In complex cases, you may need to go to a hospital for intravenous antibiotics (directly into a vein).

While you are recovering, rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Avoid sex for at least one week after your symptoms have gone to prevent it from spreading to any other partners.

Contact previous sexual partners to let them know they may have been exposed to shigella and may need medical attention.

After shigella clears you can still get shigella again in the future.

What are the best ways to prevent Shigella?

Good hygiene is the best way to protect against shigella. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after sex, and after going to the toilet. Wash and sterilise sex toys after use.

If you have any symptoms, including diarrhoea, avoid handling food for other people. Also, avoid sharing personal items such as eating utensils or toothbrushes.