Shigella, also called dysentery is transmitted via poor hygiene conditions and practices and is often associated with travel abroad. But this week it’s in the news because of infections in the UK. Found in the poo of infected humans, you can get shigella when infected poo gets into the wrong places. By understanding how you can get sick from shigella, and following some simple rules, you can help protect yourself and your family.
How does shigella make you ill – the journey of the shigella germ?
- Someone who is ill doesn’t wash hands after using the toilet and handles ready-to-eat food or ice
- An infected person (as above) touches a surface then touched by someone else who transfers bacteria to their mouths via food or by licking fingers / biting nails – this could happen anywhere – public transport, the home, shops etc!
- A sick child scratches their bottom area and doesn’t wash hands – touches other surfaces
- An infected nappy changed on a kitchen work surface or dining table could infect the whole family
- The nappy changer doesn’t wash their hands and spreads the bacteria around the home
- An ill person transmits bacteria via flush handle, taps, towels in the toilet
- Children sharing a bath / paddling pool with infected family member
- Bacteria spread via poor laundry practices (pants / towels to tea towels at low temperatures)
- Crops irrigated using untreated sewage effluent
So quick tips to control the spread of shigella:
- Always wash your hands before preparing ready-to-eat foods
- Always wash your hands before eating particularly when you have been travelling – this includes at restaurants, when snacking and when at events involving eating and hand-shaking (I use my right hand to shake hands, my left to eat canapés)!
- Don’t allow children to mix with others or go to school / nursery or swimming if they have diarrhoea
- Supervise sick children to ensure they wash their hands throughly after using the toilet
- Take care if emptying potties to wash your hands after the job and disinfect the potty
- Put the lid down before flushing the loo so the germs don’t go all over the bathroom (think toothbrushes)!
- Change nappies with care – on a mat which can be disinfected, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards with soap and water.
- Put solids from disposable nappies in the toilet and the nappies in a bag immediately and dispose of carefully in a lidded bin outside if possible.
- Wash soiled undergarments, towels and bedding at high temperatures (above 60°C or use a laundry cleansers – follow instructions)
- Disinfect hand contact surfaces more frequently if someone in the family is ill – doorknobs, drawer handles, bannisters etc
- Don’t share towels
For more detailed information on breaking the chain of infection, watch this from the IFH.