Beware of Shigella virus


Shigella infection has once again been reported in Kerala. A seven-year-old boy of Malappuram’s Puthanathani died on Friday with suspected symptoms of Shigella. The boy was admitted to a private hospital in Kozhikode with symptoms including diarrhoea. The health department urged all to exercise extreme caution as they suspected that the boy died of Shigella infection. And the Rapid Response Team has intensified precautionary measures.

What is Shigella?

Shigella is a type of bacteria that affects the intestine. This infection is known as Shigellosis and is very contagious. It is not a new bacteria and the main symptom is diarrhoea. When Shigellosis becomes serious, bleeding will occur along with diarrhoea.

Dehydration is the major cause of death. Failure to control dehydration can lead to serious illness and even death. Children under the age of five are more likely to be infected with Shigellosis. But the infection can be controlled with better medical care.

There are four types of Shigella bacteria:
1) Shigella sonnei
2) Shigella flexneri
3) Shigella boydii
4) Shigella dysenteriae

A type of shigellosis known as the Ekiri syndrome was responsible for 15,000 deaths per year in Japan during pre-World War 2 era. The Ekiri syndrome was associated with Shigella sonnei infection and was characterized by the rapid development of seizures and coma in patients with high fever and few dysenteric symptoms.

Shigella infection

When Shigella infects the intestine membrane, it will produce a poison known as Shigella Toxin. Symptoms usually start 1–2 days after infection. It may develop within 7 days. These are the major symptoms.

* Diarrhoea (may contain blood)
* Stomach pain
* Nausea and vomiting
* Loss of appetite

There are some neurological complications along with Shigellosis. Seizures are the most common neurologic complication associated with Shigella infection. Seizures occur almost exclusively among children.

How does Shigella affect you?

Shigella is transmitted from human to human. Shigella bacteria can be spread by Shigella patients with symptoms (Shigella patients), Shigella carriers without symptoms, contaminated food (milk, egg, fish, meat etc). Shigella bacterias are more likely to live longer on frozen foods.

Like normal diarrhoeal diseases, shigella bacteria also spreads through the patient's excretion which mixes with drinking water resources. When a person uses this contaminated water, the bacterias enter the body and infect it. The disease may also spread through the food prepared by a shigella patient.

Late diagnosis may cause death. Dehydration is the main reason for death. It leads to weakness and fall in blood pressure and it leads to death.


Shigellosis is diagnosed using stool culture.


Treatment is mainly focused on preventing dehydration. Consume plenty of ORS solution, salted rice gruel. Drip will also be administered to patients admitted to the hospital. Treatment using Antibiotics is also important to treat severe Shigellosis.

How to prevent Shigellosis?

* Shigellosis patients should not cook
* Wash hands using soap and water after defecation
* Trim nails neatly and avoid biting them
* Keep milk, egg, fish and meat within an advisable temperature
* Drinking water resources should be kept clean
* Avoid bathing and swimming in unclean water.
* Take necessary safety precautions when preparing food for public events

Any Vaccines to Prevent Shigellosis?

No vaccines are available to prevent Shigellosis right now.

Dr. Soumya Sathyan

Dr. Soumya Sathyan
Consultant Physician
Dept.of. Medicine
Moulana Hospital Perinthalmanna

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