Understanding Shigellosis Food Poisoning

Understanding Shigellosis Food Poisoning

By Semko, Laura 
March 21, 2017

Understanding Shigellosis Food Poisoning

Shigellosis is a digestive illness caused by bacteria. It causes diarrhea.

How to say it


What causes shigellosis food poisoning?

Shigellosis is caused by the bacteria called Shigella.  It is more common in young children. You can get it through contact with the stool of an infected person. You can get it from consuming food or water contaminated with the bacteria. Contaminated raw fruits and vegetables are the most common food source.  Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated from infected food handlers or in the growing fields. Or an infected person who handles food can spread the bacteria. You can also get shigellosis if you:  

  • Touch a contaminated surface and get the bacteria in your mouth

  • Swim in and swallow contaminated water, such as at a community pool, and get the bacteria in your mouth

What are the symptoms of shigellosis food poisoning?

Symptoms usually start about 1 to 3 days after you are exposed to the bacteria. But you may have no

symptoms for up to a week. The infection may be more severe in children and older adults. The symptoms typically last a few days. They include:

  • Fever

  • Stomach pain or cramping

  • Watery diarrhea

  • Bloody diarrhea in severe cases

  • A painful urge to use the bathroom

More severe symptoms are possible, but they are rare. Severe symptoms include seizures, a hole or tear in the intestine, and even death.

How is shigellosis food poisoning treated?

There is no vaccine to prevent shigellosis. Most people with the illness get better within 7 days. Treatments include:

  • Rest.  You may feel better faster if you get plenty of rest.

  • Fluids.  Drinking lots of fluids will help you stay hydrated. Don’t drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine.

  • Medicine.  In severe cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics. But most people get better without them.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms


March 21, 2017


Agha R, et al. Shigella infection: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. Up To Date. May 16 ed: Up To Date; 2014. p. 5., Agha R, et al. Shigella infection: Treatment and prevention in adults. Up To Date. December 17 ed: Up To Date; 2015. p. 8., Ferri F. Shigellosis. In: Ferri F, editor. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2016. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2016. p. 1122., Goldberg MB. Shigella infection: Epidemiology, microbiology, and pathogenesis. Up To Date. October 10 ed: Up To Date; 2013. p. 9., Keusch GT. Shigellosis. In: Goldman L, et al, editors. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25 ed; 2016. p. 1975-9.

Reviewed By:  

Hanrahan, John, MD,Lentnek, Arnold, MD, FACP