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Shigella is a family of bacteria that can cause Shigellosis which leads to sudden and severe diarrhea (gastroenteritis) in humans. Shigellosis is also known as bacillary dysentery and can occur after consuming fewer than 100 bacteria according to the American Public Health Association. Shigellosis is one of the most communicable and severe forms of the bacterial-induced diarrheas (Gomez et al., 2002). In fact, it is the third most common food borne pathogen. Shigella thrives in the human intestine and is commonly spread both through food and by person-to-person contact. S. sonnei, also known as Group D Shigella, accounts for over two-thirds of Shigellosis in the United StatesShigella flexneri, or group B Shigella, accounts for almost all the rest. No group of individuals is immune to shigellosis, but certain individuals are at increased risk. Small children are most vulnerable.  

Food contaminated by Shigella usually looks and smells normal which helps explain why Shigella infections are most often acquired by eating food contaminated by infected food handlers who don’t practice good hygiene. Shigella bacteria are present in the stools of infected persons while they are sick and for up to a week or two afterwards (CDC, 2009a). Vegetables can become contaminated if they are irrigated with sewage water or if sewage is left nearby. Flies can breed in infected feces and then contaminate food.

The second major way humans contract Shigella is through direct contact with the bacteria, if for example sewage goes into water, or if an infected person swims in or plays with the water around the uninfected. This route is especially common for splash tables, untreated wading pools, or shallow play fountains as toddlers who are potty training often come in contact with the feces and infect the water source.

How to Prevent

Practice good hygiene by washing hands & all surfaces touched after using the facilities. Observe proper temperature control to thoroughly cook all foods. Control insect and rodent infestations.