Shigella is a highly infectious bacterial bowel infection that is easily passed on from person to person.
Shigella exists in faecal matter of the person with the bacteria in their system and is passed on when particles of contaminated excrement enters someone else’s mouth. This can happen during sex through:
- Rimming, fingering, fisting or fucking
- Handling used sex toys
- Handling used condoms
- Getting excrement on your fingers and then touching your mouth
It can also be transmitted by putting contaminated objects like pens, food, utensils and cigarettes in your mouth.
How can I tell if I have shigella?
Symptoms of shigella occur between and one to four days after being exposed to the bacteria, and include:
- Stomach cramps
- Diarrhoea (sometimes with blood and or mucous)
In most cases, symptoms last between four to seven days, but can last longer. Some people experience no symptoms, but they can still pass the infection on to others.
How do I get tested?
You can get tested for shigella by taking a stool (faeces) sample.
How can I get treated?
If you have shigella, it will usually disappear without the need for antibiotic treatment. In this instance, it’s recommended that you drink plenty of fluids and rest well, especially if you have diarrhoea. You can also reduce the effects of dehydration with re-hydration solutions that are available from pharmacies.
If you have a severe case of shigella, your doctor will usually prescribe oral antibiotics, as these reduce the duration of the symptoms.
In some cases, shigella may be resistant to oral antibiotics. Between November 2017 to April 2018 there was an increase in the number of cases of multidrug-resistant shigella reported in NSW. This means that no recommended oral antibiotics were available as treatment. In these cases, commencing intravenous (IV) antibiotics (through the vein) is usually recommended and provided in hospital.
If you experience symptoms, see your doctor and:
- Abstain from sex until seven days after your symptoms cease
- Avoid food preparation or sharing utensils until symptoms cease
- Avoid sharing linen, towels or clothing until symptoms cease
- Avoid swimming in a pool until 24 hours after diarrhoea has ceased
- Avoid providing personal care for others such as patients, children or the elderly
- Wash hands often and thoroughly
It’s also important to tell your recent sexual partner(s), as they may need to be tested and treated. Take advantage of our free ‘Let them know’ SMS service here.
How can I prevent shigella transmission?
To prevent yourself from contracting shigella, you should always be aware that tiny excrement particles can easily enter your mouth, especially when biting your nails, lighting a cigarette, preparing food, and sharing utensils such as cups, bottles and household equipment. It’s recommended you:
- Wear gloves for arse play
- Use a dam for rimming
- Wash your hands after having sex
- Wash your hands after handling used condoms or sex toys
What if I’m HIV positive?
If you’re poz and you contract shigella, there is a small chance you may experience more severe symptoms, and this may result in hospitalisation.
If I’m on PrEP, how will shigella affect me?
PrEP is an excellent HIV prevention tool. However, it does not provide you with protection from shigella. To reduce your risk of shigella, use gloves and dams during sex and avoid putting sex toys that have been inside someone else’s arse into your mouth.
FAST FACTS ABOUT SHIGELLA
- Shigella is very infectious and easily passed on
- Shigella transmitted when the particles of contaminated excrement enters someone else’s mouth
- Symptoms usually include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and nausea
- Shigella usually disappears without the need for antibiotics
- Some strains of shigella can be multidrug-resistant and IV antibiotics administered at hospital may be required
- To avoid getting shigella, wear gloves and dams during sex, and always wash your hands after playing