Let's talk Shigella

Publish Date: 11/02/2014

What is it? Shigella is a bacterial infection that is caused by the bacteria found in poo. It can be very easily spread as all it takes is for a tiny amount of the bacteria to get into your mouth.

  How do you get it?  

Gay and Bisexual men are most at risk of Shigella through sexual activities such as rimming, licking the area which could have the bacteria on it such as the bum, groin area or even the penis.

  What are the symptoms?  

Shigella often presents like food poisoning, so you might get intense stomach cramps, a fever and diarrhoea (sometimes with blood in it). Shigella usually starts as soon as four days after coming into contact with it.

  What should I do?  

If you are showing symptoms you should go to your doctor or your local GUM as soon as possible. A list of clinics in Greater Manchester can be found at www.lgf.org.uk/testing.

You should explain your symptoms and tell the health care professional who is treating you that you might have got it from sex. This is important so that they can run the right tests and suggest the right treatment path for you.

  What happens if I test positive for Shigella?  

If you test positive for Shigella you need to wait 48 hours before going back to work. However you can still be infectious for up to a month!

You’ll be given a course of antibiotics and you also need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you from becoming dehydrated.

You should wash your hands frequently to avoid any chance of the bacteria re-entering your system!

Avoid preparing food for other people until a week after the symptoms stop.

Avoid sex until a week after the symptoms stop.

Don’t share towels.

Don’t use Jacuzzis or hot tubs as you might contaminate the water.

  How can I manage my risks?  

Fingering or Fisting? Wear latex gloves to avoid any of the bacteria getting under your fingernails or any cuts on your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after to reduce risk of spreading the bacteria.

Sex Toys? Don’t share them or put condoms on any toys before using them and change condoms for new users. Always wash them before and after use with warm soapy water.

Anal? Wear condoms – this is the best way of reducing your risk not only against Shigella but against all STI’s.

  +   Are you topping? Wash your penis with warm soapy water before and after, be mindful when washing the corona (the head of your penis) as that’s where most bacteria accumulate. And don’t forget to dab dry with a clean towel after washing.

  +   Bottoming? Be sure to have a bath/shower beforehand as a good way of eliminating any odours and keeping your bum nice and clean! Prefer to douche? Be careful not to use hot water or to over douche as this can damage the lining in your arse which increases the likelihood of HIV transmission.

Rimming? Using a dental dam or cutting a condom into a square is the most effective way of reducing your risk of coming into contact with the bacteria, giving you a barrier for rimming. Make sure you don’t swallow – spit to reduce the risk!