What is Shigella?

Shigella is a bacterium that causes severe stomach upset.

How does someone get Shigella?

It is passed on through infected faeces (poo) – this can be through contaminated food or sexually. Only a very small amount of the bacteria is needed to cause infection. Infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics, however some strains can prove more difficult to treat.


Sex that may involve contact with faeces (poo) is a risk e.g. anal sex, fisting, fingering, rimming, oral sex or handling a condom or sex toy used for anal sex. Bad hygiene like not washing hands can contribute to the spread of shigella.


The number of cases of sexually acquired Shigella has increased in MSM in the recent past in Europe, including Ireland.

What are the symptoms?

Shigella is a gut infection which causes severe, prolonged diarrhoea and stomach cramps.


Symptoms often develop around one to three days after (sexual) contact, and can include:

  • frequent and explosive diarrhoea lasting more than 48 hours
  • stomach cramps
  • feeling feverish with flu like symptoms
  • some people report vomiting
  • some people may have blood mixed with the diarrhoea
What does a Shigella test involve?

Shigella is usually diagnosed by sending a stool (poo) sample to the laboratory for testing. If you suspect you have Shigella, you should attend your healthcare provider who can organise this test.

What does treatment involve?

Diarrhoea caused by Shigella usually goes away between five to seven days. People with mild infection will generally get better with fluids and rest. Antibiotics are usually used to help reduce the spread of Shigella to someone else and for more severe cases.



If you have diarrhoea, stomach cramps or fever, avoid sex with another person, till you get the all clear.


Do not share towels; avoid using health spas, jacuzzis, hot tubs or swimming pools.


If you work in the food industry, healthcare or childcare settings, stay out of work while you have symptoms and seek medical care.