What Parents Should Know About Shigella

Shigella is a bacterium that can cause stomach problems, especially in children under 5 years old. (Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria called shigella and, according to the agency, the majority of infections are occurring in children under 5. shigella can cause bloody diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain, among other symptoms, making it a disease no one wants to have. For parents of young children, it is understandable to be concerned.

The CDC said in a health advisory late last month that it had seen an increase in “extremely drug-resistant” shigella, which means these cases are difficult to treat. The agency also said the rise in these shigella cases raises “potentially serious public health concerns.”

Although doctors say that there are currently many other diseases that your child is more likely to contract, they also stress the importance of at least being aware that shigella exist. “shigella infections aren’t as common as viruses like norovirus, but parents need to know what to look for and when to have their child evaluated,” said Dr. Danelle Fisher, pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. , in California. ., tells Yahoo Life.

What is shigella and what are the signs that your child may have an infection? Here’s what you need to know.

First of all, what is shigella?

Shigella is a bacterium that causes an infection known as shigellosis. Shigella leads to about 450,000 infections in the United States each year, according to the CDC. There are four species of Shigella — Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri, Shigella boydii and Shigella dysenteriae. (Shigella sonei is the most common form in the United States, according to the CDC.)

Shigellosis is a fecal-oral disease, which means it spreads when poo particles get into your mouth. The CDC says you are most likely to get shigellosis in one of the following ways:

  • Having shigella on your hands and then touching your mouth. (This can happen by touching infected surfaces such as toys or bathroom fixtures, or changing the diaper of a child with shigella.)

  • Eating foods prepared by someone with shigella infection.

  • Swallow water in which you swim or play.

  • Swallow contaminated drinking water.

  • Being exposed to poop during sexual contact with someone who has shigella infection or has recently recovered from shigella infection.

“Shigella can spread regularly in young children who wash their hands poorly, and outbreaks can be seen in daycares and schools,” Bessey Geevarghese, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, told Yahoo Life. .

How do you distinguish a shigella infection from other gastrointestinal illnesses, such as norovirus?

Shigellosis can cause the following symptoms, according to the CDC:

Symptoms typically begin one to two days after a person becomes infected and last for seven days, according to the CDC.

But Fisher says it can be “very difficult to distinguish” shigella from other infections, even for doctors. Still, she says, there are a few clues that your child might have shigellosis. “We always ask about the presence of blood—shigella has more blood in the stool than, say, norovirus,” says Fisher. “Another characteristic is that you feel like you have to poop but you don’t have to poop – this is more common with shigella.”

Ultimately, however, doctors will only know for sure with tests.

How is a shigella infection diagnosed and treated?

Geevarghese says doctors and parents should at least suspect shigella if a child has blood with poop and mucus, as well as stomach cramps. But the bacteria can only be properly diagnosed with a stool culture, Fisher says. “Your child can poop in a paper cup and you can bring it, or your pediatrician’s office can give you supplies to collect a sample,” she says. (A stool culture will also help your doctor know which antibiotics may be effective against your child’s strain of shigella, Geevarghese notes.)

In general, “the main danger of this disease is dehydration,” says Geevarghese. And if your child is having difficulty, he can be given oral antibiotics for three to five days. Also keep this in mind, according to Geevarghese: most of the antibiotic-resistant strains detected in the United States so far have been in adults.

“Most people with shigella infections can recover on their own,” says Fisher. “If your child is already on the right track to getting better, you don’t necessarily need to treat them. But if they’re not doing well or getting worse, especially if they’re dehydrated, they may benefit from hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.”

Overall, doctors say your child is more likely to get an infection like norovirus than shigella, but it is important to be careful. “It’s just misery for everyone right now,” Fisher says. “Good hand washing cannot be stressed enough. I wish there was a magic pill or supplement to prevent this, but there isn’t. It’s really about doing your best to stay healthy – that’s all you can do.”

Well-being, parenthood, body image and more: discover the WHO behind the whoo with the Yahoo Life newsletter. register here.

Leave a Comment