HOLIDAYMAKERS have been warned to be weary of a sometimes-deadly stomach bug rapidly spreading in popular tourist destinations.
Clusters of infectious shigellosis have been reported in Europe and the US
Over 300 cases of the highly contagious illness characterised by fever, severe diarrhoea and stomach pain have been reported since April this year, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Most of these reports have come to the US – which has seen 106 cases – followed by a cluster of 60 people falling ill in Spain and another 50 in Ireland.
Most of the cases were recorded between 2022−2023, but some date back to 2016.
“All strains in these seven clusters show resistance to first and second-line antibiotics,” the ECDC noted.
The health body showed particular concern over some of the strains’ resistance to azithromycin, “as this limits the options for effective treatment”.
Transmission within the seven clusters has “largely, but not exclusively, [been seen] among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men”, the ECDC added.
How is shigellosis spread?
Shigellosis is the gastrointestinal infection caused by Shigella bacteria.
You can become infected if you:
have poo on your hands and you touch your mouthput objects in your mouth that are contaminated with the infected pooconsume food and water which is contaminated with the poo from an infected person
The nasty bug can particularly be spread through oral and anal sex, but it can also be spread from you to your close contacts if you don’t practice good personal hygiene.
You can also catch it from what you’re eating or drinking.
Your likelihood of being infected the serious bug and other sexually transmitted infections increases with the number of sexual contacts you have.
The 6 signs of shigellosis to know
Shigellosis can be incredibly transmissible and its symptoms are pretty unpleasant.
According to the NHS, these include:
feeling and being sick upset stomachdiarrhoea, which may be severe, watery and/or contain blood or slimehigh temperature tummy pain and/or crampingdehydration, particularly if you aren’t able to drink enough fluids
For most people, the symptoms should only last between five and seven days and they won’t need medical treatment.
But in rare cases, some people may become very unwell – you should seek medical help immediately if this happens to you.
If you’re returning home to the UK with shigellosis symptoms, it’s best that you:
get plenty of resttry to drink plenty of fluids to prevent becoming dehydratedavoid use of over-the counter medications which prevent diarrhoea as these can make symptoms worseseek medical review if you have a high temperature and feel very unwell
If you are diagnosed with shigellosis, you should avoid sexual activity for at least seven days after symptoms have completely disappeared.
Anal and oral sex should be avoided for even longer – between four and six weeks, according to the ECDC, as Shigella can linger in your poo for that amount of time.
How do I avoid getting the bug?
According to the ECDC, the best way minimise your risk of getting a Shigella infection is to practice safe sex and ensure good personal hygiene – this means washing your hands thoroughly before eating preparing food and after using the toilet.
The NHS advises when you’re away you also:
making sure your food is freshly cooked and piping hotcarefully wash fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs before eating them, and peel fruit and vegetables whenever possibleavoid milk or dairy products that have not been pasteurised
You shouldn’t have sex with anyone if you start developing gastrointestinal symptoms and it might a good idea to get tested for gastrointestinal pathogens and other STIs, the ECDC said.
You should also not handle or prepare food for others or use public pools, spas and hot tubs while symptoms persist.