What is it and how do I get it? 

Shigella a bacterial infection of the intestine that causes severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is often mistaken for food poisoning.

It’s caused by a highly infectious bacteria which you can get by coming into contact with poo. You can get it from having sex with someone who is infectious by getting faeces (poo) in your mouth, especially from rimming, but also from fingering, sharing sex toys or fisting, as there may be faeces on your hands that you then put in your mouth.

Shigella has become more common amongst gay and bisexual men. You only need to get a tiny amount of the bacteria in your mouth to start feeling sick.   

How do I prevent it? 

It’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and during or after sex. To reduce the likelihood of infection, use gloves for fisting and condoms for fucking or sharing toys and wash your hands or shower after having sex. If you are having sex without condoms, avoid oral sex after your partner's penis been up yours or someone else’s bum in order to avoid the bacteria getting into your mouth. If you have been diagnosed with shigella, avoid having sex until you have fully recovered so that you don’t pass it on to your partners. 

How do I know I've got it? 

Although infection can be asymptomatic, shigella can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (which can sometimes contain blood or mucus), fever, and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should get yourself tested by your GP or at a GUM clinic.

How do I get it treated?

Most of the time you will recover with no complications within a week or 10 days but in some cases - especially if you have severe symptoms - antibiotics may be advised. Some shigella infections are now resistant to multiple antibiotics meaning that treatment is less likely to be effective and infected people can take weeks or longer to fully recover.

Which sexual partners should I inform if I've been diagnosed with Shigella?

If you have symptoms or have tested positive for shigella, you should inform anyone you've had sex with up to a week before the symptoms started.

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References
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[1] Health Protection Agency. (2013). Shigella. Available: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733741045. Last accessed 20th Sept 2013.

[2] Health Protection Agency. (2013). Shigella. Available: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733741045. Last accessed 20th Sept 2013.