Developments in medical science have brought about many advantages for the human race and among them, one of the most critical ones have been the ability to identify harmful virus and bacteria. As we get over the after effects of Covid-19 virus, another harmful bacteria that is presently doing the rounds is the Shigella bacteria. Investigation in to the death of a 7-year old boy in Kerala last week has raised suspicion that he died of shigellosis, based on symptoms that he had.

Shigella-Bacteria-CDC
Image Source, Credit & Rights : CDC

What is Shigellosis?

Shigellosis is an infection caused by Shigella bacteria that affects the intestine. This is a highly contagious infection and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated on time.

There are four types of Shigella bacteria:

1) Shigella sonnei
2) Shigella flexneri
3) Shigella boydii
4) Shigella dysenteriae

When Shigellosis infects you, it produces a toxin called Shigella toxin. Prime symptoms of Shigellosis, which start within 1-2 days of infection, include Diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting as well as loss of appetite. 

Transmission of Shigellosis

Shigellosis transmits from human to human. Main forms of transmission include shigellosis patients, contaminated food and more importantly drinking water, contaminated with patient’s excreta.

How to prevent Shigellosis?

Since Shigellosis is transmitted between humans and also through drinking water & food, the best way to prevent spread and transmission is to take adequate precautions when it comes to drinking water, cooking food and practicing safe hygiene.

Ensuring safe and clean drinking water is one of the best ways to ensure that you are safe from Shigellosis and similar bacterial and viral infections, which if left untreated can even cause death. With the onset of summer now and monsoon later, it is critical to ensure that your drinking water is safe and filtered of all bacterial, viral and chemical contaminants.  The most efficient and sustainable way to ensure this is to have a reliable water filtration system like this.

A few additional steps that can help prevent transmission include:

  1. Do not allow shigellosis patients to enter food and water preparation areas.
  2. Practice safe hygiene methods including washing hands with soap and water regularly.
  3. Store food items, especially milk, egg, fish and meat in a neat place within advised temperature settings.
  4. Wash utensils, clothes and take bath in a clean water environment.

Effects of Shigellosis

As discussed earlier, dehydration is the biggest health impact that Shigellosis causes and is also the major reason for death. There are also some neurological complications that Shigellosis brings along and among them, seizures are the most common. Seizures occur almost exclusively among children.

Diagnosis and treatment

Shigellosis is diagnosed using stool culture. As for treatment, it is mostly focused on ensuring that the patient never gets dehydrated, which means timely and adequate hydration, especially with ORS solution along with drip as well as medicines to reduce infection are employed.

History of Shigellosis

The last known instance when Shigellosis caused widespread destruction was in Japan during the pre-World War 2 era. A type of Shigellosis known as the Ekiri syndrome was responsible for almost 15,000 deaths per year in Japan. The Ekiri syndrome was associated with Shigella sonnei infection.

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