Shigella is a bacterial infection which can be passed on through sexual contact with someone who has it. Most people will have symptoms, but it is possible to have shigella and not feel any different.
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Who is Affected by Shigella?
Anyone can get shigella, but some groups of people are at higher risk because shigella is more common in these groups. Gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men are more at risk of sexually transmitted Shigella.
How is it Transmitted?
Shigella is caused by bacteria found in poo (faeces) getting in your mouth. You can get shigella by licking skin, condoms, or toys which have the bacteria on them, eg rimming, giving oral sex after anal sex, or putting your fingers in your mouth after fingering or handling used condoms, sex toys or douching equipment.
Washing your hands after sex can lower your risk, as well as showering to wash your bum and genitals. You should change condoms between anal and oral sex, and between partners. You can also use a dental dam when rimming, and use gloves or condoms on your hands or fingers if you’re fingering or fisting.
Shigella can also be passed on through contaminated food.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of shigella start between 12 hours and 4 days after infection, and can last for around a week.
Shigella causes severe stomach upset, including fever, cramps (stomach ache), and diarrhoea which may have blood in it.
Testing and Treatment
You can get tested for Shigella at a sexual health (GUM) clinic or your GP. Explain the symptoms you’re having and that you think you might have picked up an infection from sex. Shigella is easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
You should avoid sex until a week after symptoms stop, and avoid preparing food for other people while you’re ill. Basic good hygiene can help you avoid passing on Shigella, including washing your hands often, not sharing towels, and cleaning taps, door handles, and toilet seats with hot soapy water.
Wait 48 hours before If your work involves food or dealing with patients, you should wait until your doctor tells you your infection has cleared before going back to work.
If you identify as a gay, bi or any other man who has sex with men, then you can get tested at LGBT Foundation through our full sexual health screening clinic in partnership with The Northern. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit lgbt.foundation/testing