In recent months the gay and bisexual male community in Chicago, especially in the Lake View and Uptown neighborhoods, has seen an uptick in the number of shigellosis ( shigella infection ) casesmany of whom are HIV-positive, the Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ) has reported. A number of those infected have had to be hospitalized.
To combat this, CDPH has released a fact sheet about shigellosis and the ways to prevent oneself from becoming infected. CDPH worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create the fact sheet for distribution to the communities who are at risk.
Shigellosis is a bacterial infection that is found in the intestines and is released in fecal matter. Many of those who are infected with shigellosis pass it through that matter or soiled fingers to another person's mouth. Poor hygiene and/or certain types of sexual activity such as rimming and oral contact with contaminated skin causes the bacteria to spread. The bacteria can remain in a person's stool for up to two weeks after they get sick.
To diagnosis shigellosis, doctors test a stool sample. If the patient is found to be infected, that person is treated and cured through three to seven days of prescribed antibiotic pills. Those with mild cases of shigellosis are free of the infection in five to seven days, however, people with a weakened immune system including those who are HIV-positive are more likely to experience severe symptoms that result in a longer illness period and potential hospitalization.
The symptoms include diarrhea that is often bloody as well as fever and stomach cramps that begin two or three days after exposure. If a person has or thinks he or she has shigellosis, that person should avoid sexual contact. Infected individuals who work in the health-care, food or childcare industries should not work until they are treated with the antibiotic for at least 24 hours and gastrointestinal symptoms have stopped, or have had two negative samples collected at least 24 hours apart after they've been off the antibiotics for at least 48 hours.
"CDPH clinic staff has been trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of shigellosis and offer treatment to clients when necessary," said Dr. Tarek Mikati, medical director of CDPH HIV/STI Division. "This disease can be life-threatening for individuals with low immunity, including those living with AIDS; but it is treatable, which is why we are increasing our education and outreach efforts so residents and health care providers have the information they need to stay healthy and safe."
There are a number of safety precautions that can be taken to prevent shigellosis infection including washing one's hands regularly with soap and water especially after using the restroom, after any sexual activity, after touching items used during sexual activity and before food preparation. The CDPH also advises using clean sex toys, dental dams for rimming and gloves for anal fisting and fingering. They also advise that anyone who exhibits the symptoms of shigellosis should see their doctor for testing and if infected refrain from any sexual contact for at least seven days after being symptom free and inform sexual partners about their risk so they can be tested and treated if infected.
For more information, visit www.cityofchicago.org/health or www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdph/HIV_STI/Shigella_Fact_Sheet.pdf.