We have been aware of a bacterial infection called Shigella (also known as Dysentery) potentially being an issue for Gay and Bisexual men. We’ve met with PHA and other officials to discuss this. Below we’ve provided you with some information about what Shigella is and does? If you would like to talk further about this please PM our Sexual Health Development Officer James on 028 90319030 or private message us.
What is Shigella?
Shigella is a bacterial infection of the bowels which is closely related to Salmonella. As a result it is often mistaken for food poisoning. The bacteria may be passed by contaminated fluids such as faeces. Anal Sex and Rimming can be a method of transmission and as such Gay and Bisexual (or Men who have Sex with Men) can be at risk of catching the bacteria.
What are the symptoms of Shigella?
Shigella causes diarrhoea which will last more than 48 hours and causes stomach cramps and fever. Sometimes the diarrhoea will contain blood or mucus and is sometimes called dysentery. Symptoms usually start within 4 days of infection.
How does Shigella spread?
Shigella is very easily spread from person to person and requires only a small amount of bacteria to make it into your system.
How can I stop myself from getting Shigella?
Shower before and after sex.
Wash your hands, penis and bum before and after sex. This is very important if you are sex toys, fingering, rimming or even throwing away used condoms. Always use condoms for anal sex and latex gloves form fisting.
Use a dental dam for rimming. You can make your own by cutting a condom into a square to make a barrier.
Don’t share douches or sex toys
What do I do if I think I have Shigella?
Testing for Shigella is easy. You can either go to your local GP or GUM Clinic and get tested. Remember to inform your clinician that you might have picked up a gut infection and you think it might be Shigella. The GP or GUM Clinician will then test and treat you for the infection is present in your system.
To mitigate the symptoms of diarrhoea you should:
Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
Remain at home until the infection has been treated, if present, especially if you handle food, fluid or tissue. You will need to wait 48 hours after symptoms stop before returning to work/education. If you do work with food, fluid or tissue you must be cleared by a public health official before returning to work.
A person with Shigella may still be infectious for up to a month after.
During that time if you do have Shigella you should:
Wash your hands frequently (before and after eating/preparing food or going to the toilet)
Avoid sex until at least a week after symptoms stop.
Disinfect communal objects such as door handles, taps and toilets and do not use towels.
Do not go to the sauna. You may contaminate the water and infect other patrons.
For more information, advice or support contact The Rainbow Project on 028 90319030