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Shigella in food


Last updated: 23 December 2020

What is it?

  • Shigella is a type of bacteria that can be found in the gut of humans and other animals
  • Shigella can get into food from the faeces (poo) of an infected person or animal, for example from poor hand washing or contact with sewerage or manure
  • Foods at higher risk of contamination include foods handled a lot during preparation (e.g. salads and sandwiches) and raw vegetables

What’s the risk?

  • Shigella can cause a type of gastro called shigellosis
  • Shigellosis is contagious
  • Sometimes illness can cause seizures and longer-term problems such as arthritis
  • Anyone can get shigellosis but it is more likely that very young children and the elderly could get seriously ill
  • People with poor personal hygiene may be more likely to get shigellosis
  • People traveling to countries with poor sanitation may be exposed to Shigella
  • Even a small amount of Shigella can make someone sick

Reduce your risk

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and dry them before preparing and eating food, especially after going to the toilet or changing nappies
  • Keep equipment clean, particularly in higher risk environments like childcare centres, aged care facilities, institutions and food premises
  • When traveling to places with poor sanitation, drink bottled water and avoid food that might have been prepared with contaminated water

Symptoms of shigellosis

  • Symptoms usually start 12 hours to 4 days after eating contaminated food
  • Common symptoms are sudden abdominal cramping, fever, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody), nausea and vomiting. Seizures may happen from high fever
  • In general, symptoms may occur for 4 to 7 days.


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