About Shigella

From the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Shigella and other foodborne illness outbreaks.

Chapter 5

Symptoms of Shigella Infection

Symptoms of Shigella infection include painful abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever.

Most people who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps after being exposed to the bacteria. [11, 16, 26] Symptoms may start 12 to 96 hours after exposure, usually within 1 to 3 days. [1, 16] Diarrhea may range from mild to severe, and it usually contains mucus. [16] When more severe, the diarrhea is bloody 25% to 50% of the time. [1, 16, 22] Rectal spasms, which are technically referred to as “tenesmus,” are common. [16]

Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. [1, 11, 26] A severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than two years old. [16, 19] Some persons who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the Shigella bacteria to others. [11, 17]

Persons with shigellosis in the U.S. do not often require hospitalization, although the hospitalization rate has been estimated to be in excess of 50,000 per year. [27] Predictably, the hospitalization rate tends to be highest among older individuals. [9, 10, 16] Those who are immune-compromised, like persons infected with HIV, are also more likely to face hospitalization because of the risk of complications. [4]

The relationship between HIV infection and the subsequent risk for shigellosis has yet to be conclusively evaluated, although it is known that “HIV-associated immunodeficiency leads to more severe clinical manifestations of Shigella infection.” [23] Moreover, persons infected with HIV “may develop persistent or recurrent intestinal Shigella infections, even in the presence of adequate antimicrobial therapy. They also face an increased risk of Shigella bacteraemia, which can be recurrent, severe or even fatal.” [23]

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Complications of Shigella Infection

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