Shigella infection, often called shigellosis, is an infection of the digestive tract which can cause bloody diarrhoea, first sign of shigella. The infection can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool. Shigella bacteria also can be passed in contaminated food or by drinking or swimming in contaminated water.
Shigellosis is commonly seen during the summer months and affects 2-4 year old children. The infection is rarely seen in infants younger than 6 months old.
Causes of Shigella infection
Shigellosis is highly communicable. Someone may become infected by coming into in contact with something contaminated by stool from an infected person. This includes toys, surfaces in restrooms, and even food prepared by someone who is infected. For example, children who touch a contaminated surface such as a toilet or toy and then put their fingers in their mouths can become infected. Shigella infection can even be carried and spread by flies that have touched contaminated stool.
Normally, it doesn’t take many Shigella bacteria to cause an infection. The bacteria easily spread in water supplies in areas with poor sanitation. Moreover, one can get shigella infection by swallowing contaminated water from sewage or from a person with shigella infection swimming in it.
The bacteria Shigella make toxins that can attack the lining of the large intestine, causing swelling, ulcers on the intestinal wall, and bloody diarrhoea. The extremity of diarrhoea differentiates shigellosis from regular diarrhoea. Usually, the first bowel movement is often large and watery in children. Over time, the bowel movement may be smaller followed by blood and mucus. Other symptoms of shigellosis include:
In order to diagnose shigella infection, your doctor may suggest a stool test, accompanied by blood tests and other tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
Some cases of shigellosis require no treatment, but in other cases antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to shorten the illness and to prevent the spread of bacteria to others.
As parents, you must not give your child non-prescribed medicines for vomiting or diarrhoea without the doctor’s nod.
When to visit a doctor
Visit the doctor if your child has signs of a shigella infection including diarrhoea with blood or mucus, along with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, or high fever. Children with diarrhoea can quickly become dehydrated, which can lead to various complications including:
- Dry mouth, tongue, and lips
- Sunken eyes
- A dry diaper for several hours in infants or fewer trips to the bathroom to urinate in older children