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05th Oct 2017

There’s a nasty bug on the rise in Ireland this year

The symptoms don't sound pretty.

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection that infects the intestinal tract.

There has been a notable increase in the number of cases of a bacterial infection known as Shigellosis in Ireland, with 75 cases reported in the first nine months of 2017 compared to 58 in the same period last year.

The bug has come to light this week due to reports of an increased number of cases of Shigellosis in the UK, where parents have been warned to be wary of an infection to which children are particularly prone.

A bacterial infection affecting the intestinal tract, Shigellosis is caused by the bacterium Shigella. There are four varieties of this bacterium that can produce a very powerful toxin that can cause severe damage to the lining of the gut.

The bacteria are only found in humans and while anyone can be infected, children are particularly prone.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in Ireland, there was only one reported case of Shigellosis in Ireland in the week ending September 30, while there have been 75 reported cases so far this year.

Shigellosis infection occurs when the bacteria are ingested, which most commonly occurs in close person-to-person contact. Contaminated water is also an important method of transmission.

People with Shigellosis may have no symptoms but can still carry the infection in their faeces. They can pass the infection to others if they do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet or changing the nappy of an infected infant. They can then contaminate objects that are touched by others or food or drink that is consumed by others.

Children in child care centres and their parents are at greater risk of being infected, as are overseas travellers, institutionalised people and men who have sex with men. Outbreaks are common in conditions of overcrowding or poor sanitation.

The symptoms, which occur between 1-7 days (usually 1-3 days) after exposure to Shigella and usually last for 7-14 days include:

  • Diarrhoea (usually containing mucus and/or blood)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps

Shigellosis is best treated by simple measures such as rehydration, while more severe forms require treatment with antibiotics, usually ciprofloxacin.

The best measures to protect yourself against Shigellosis is to ensure that you wash your hands regularly and take care when preparing food.

For more information, check out the Shigellosis FAQ on the HPSC website.