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Shigella is an infectious bacterial infection. It is often a cause of food poisoning but can easily be passed on during sex.

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What is Shigella?

Shigella is an infectious bacterial infection. It is often a cause of food poisoning but can easily be passed on during sex.

How could I get shigella?

From coming into contact with faeces (shit). You can get it from having sex with someone who has it, especially from rimming, but also from fisting, fingering or sharing of sex toys and douches, and even by handling used condoms as it’s easy to get tiny bits of faeces on your hands and then to get that in your mouth.

Recently, shigella has become more common in men who have sex with men.  You only need to get a tiny amount of the bacteria in your mouth to start feeling unwell.

How can I avoid getting shigella?

It’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and during or after sex.

To reduce the likelihood of infection use gloves for fisting and condoms for fucking or sharing toys and wash your hands or shower after having sex.

Don’t share sex toys or douching equipment.

If you have been diagnosed with shigella, avoid having sex until you have fully recovered so that you can reduce the risk of passing it on to your partners.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of shigella typically start one to four days after exposure and include:

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody)
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenesmus (a painful sensation of needing to shit even when bowels are empty)

How do I test for Shigella?

Best to go to your GP or sexual health clinic for a stool (shit) sample test. Explain that you might have picked up a gut infection from sex, possibly shigella. The doctor needs to know this so you get the right tests and treatment. A full sexual health check-up is also a good idea.

How is it treated?

Some people will recover with no complications within a week or 10 days but in some cases, especially if you have severe and/or bloody diarrhoea, you may need to take antibiotics.

If you have HIV it is especially important to get tested and treated as soon as possible.

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