Shigella is a bacterial gut infection that causes severe, prolonged diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is spread through oral contact with faeces, either directly due to sexual activities such as rimming (oral-anal contact) or via unwashed hands. Only tiny amounts of the bacteria can transmit the infection. Symptoms usually develop one to three days after infection and include:

  • Frequent diarrhoea lasting more than 48 hours.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Feeling feverish.
  • Vomiting.
  • Feeling weak and tired.

The infection can pose a serious health risk to HIV-positive individuals with weak immune systems. It can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

In 2009 there were only 43 cases among men in the UK that didn’t have a link to travel. But the number surged to 224 cases in 2013, and further reports are expected.

Cary James, head of health improvement at THT, expressed concern that not all cases of the infection were being reported. “Men with symptoms who haven’t heard of Shigella before might assume it’s a particularly bad case of food poisoning,” he said. “However, the infection can be dangerous, even more so if you’re already living with HIV or hep C.”

Further information about Shigella can be found here www.tht.org.uk/shigella and here www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Shigella.