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Symptoms of Shigella dysentery

Question from Nancy

My daughters’ school has sent home a note telling us that there is a serious problem with a bacterial infection called Shigella in her school and others in our county. I have heard that is can be dangerous so I would love your input on this problem. My daughter does not have it but I want to know everything about it in case it does happen.

Dear Nancy:

Shigella causes bacterial infection of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis), which mainly involves the large bowel (colon).

Symptoms of Shigella dysentery are fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea which may eventually become bloody. The disease is transmitted either from contaminated food or from person to person. The incubation period is between 24-72 hrs. If untreated, diarrhea may last as long as 1-2 weeks and then resolve. Some patients (particularly the very young or elderly) may become dehydrated.

Complications include Arthritis, Uveitis (inflammation of a portion of the eye), and a combination of Hemolysis or destruction of red blood cells along with Kidney failure (this is known as the Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).

Diagnosis is made by stool culture. Treatment in severe cases is with Antibiotics-Ampicillin or BACTRIM presently being the drugs of choice. Any patient with bloody diarrhea should avoid using medications that decrease intestinal motility-this can lead to dilatation of the colon and perforation. The best preventive measure is good hand washing technique.

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