Shigella accounts for less than ten percent of reported foodborne illnesses in the United States. While it is relatively uncommon, Shigella is highly infectious and the effects are serious.
Onset time for Shigella is 12 to 50 hours. At this time the organisms bind to, and then penetrate the cells that cover the mucus of the intestine. After attacking, they rapidly multiply and invade neighboring cells, which results in severe tissue damage. The most severe symptom occurs in infants and the elderly, although all humans are susceptible to the disease. Abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting are all indications of Shigella. In most cases, Shigella is resolved five to seven days after infection, though it may be several months before bowel movements are back to normal.
Shigella is passed from the stools or soiled fingers of one infected person to another. The disease can also be found on raw produce harvested from fields with sewage in it. All foods exposed to water contaminated by Shigella are considered infectious. Such foods may include: salads, raw vegetables, dairy products and poultry.
Sanitary food handling and proper hand washing techniques can prevent the disease. Persons with diarrheal illnesses should not prepare food for others.
More Information on Shigella:
- Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins (Bad Bug Book)
- Shigellosis (Shigella) - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)