Gay and bisexual men are a group at high risk for Shigella infection.


Shigella is a bacteria infection of your bowel that can cause severe diarrhoea.

Shigella passes from the poop (stool) or unclean fingers of one person to the mouth of another person. This can happen during sexual activity through:

  • Direct sexual contact: Oral or anal sex, or anal play (rimming, fingering)
  • Indirect sexual contact: Handling contaminated objects, such as sex toys, used condoms or barriers, and douching materials

Symptoms usually start 1–2 days after swallowing the germs and include bloody diarrhoea (red), dehydration, fever, and stomach pain.

Most people with Shigella infection—including those infected with antimicrobial-resistant Shigella—recover within 5 to 6 days without antibiotics.


If you have diarrhoea:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (including electrolytes)
  • Several drugs, such as loperamide, can be bought over-the-counter to treat the symptoms of diarrhoea and how often you need to use the bathroom

See a doctor or healthcare provider if you have severe symptoms, including:

  • Bloody diarrhoea or diarrhoea that lasts more than 3 days
  • High fever (temperature over 39°C, measured in your mouth)
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up

A stool sample will be examined to diagnose shigella. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them exactly as directed and finish taking all the pills even if you feel better.


  • Wash hands, genitals, and anus before and after sex
  • Do not have sex if you have diarrhoea
  • Use condoms or dental dams during anal sex and oral sex

Diagnosed with Shigella infection? Prevent spreading it to others:

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom
  • Do NOT have sex until at least 2 weeks after your diarrhoea ends
  • Do NOT prepare food for others while you are sick
  • Do NOT swim, jacuzzi or hot tub until at least 2 weeks after your symptoms have resolved

If you work in healthcare, food service, or childcare, stay home until your health department says it’s safe to return.

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