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Shigella infection in Kerala

Published: 16th May, 2022


The Kerala health department recently identified Shigella bacteria as the cause for the food poisoning incident in Kasaragod, which claimed the life of a 16-year-old girl and led to 30-odd others being admitted to hospital.


What is Shigella?

  • Shigella is a bacterium that belongs to the enterobacter family — a group of bacteria that reside in the intestine, not all of which cause disease in humans.
  • It mainly affects the intestine and results in diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, stomach pain, and fever.
  • The infection spreads easily as it takes only a small number of bacteria to make someone ill.
  • It is a food- and water-borne infection, and can happen when someone consumes contaminated food.
  • The disease is easily spread by direct or indirect contact with the excrement of the patient.

What are the symptoms?

  • Diarrhoea (often containing blood or mucous)
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting

How widespread is Shigella infection?

  • Shigellosis happens, but it is not a very common infection.
  • Shigella outbreaks appear to be exacerbated during pregnancy and in children less than five years of age, and in those with weakened immune systems.
  • There are four types of Shigella bacteria that affect humans — Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri, Shigella boydii, and Shigella dysenteriae.
  • The fourth type causes the most severe disease because of the toxin it produces.

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