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Diseases & Topics


Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most people with shigellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The diarrhea is often bloody. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the bacteria to others. While people with mild infections usually recover quickly on their own, more severe cases of shigellosis can be treated with antibiotics.

Children, especially toddlers aged two to four, are the most likely to get shigellosis.

Most Shigella infections are the result of the bacterium passing from stools (poop) or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person. This can happen when basic hygiene and handwashing habits are inadequate, and is particularly likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained; they can then spread it to family members and playmates.

Shigella infections may also be acquired from eating contaminated food or coming in contact with contaminated water. This can happen when infected food handlers forget to wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom. Sewage can contaminate produce in the field. Water may become contaminated if sewage runs into it or if someone with shigellosis swims in or plays with it.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent shigellosis. However, the spread of Shigella from an infected person to other persons can be stopped by frequent and careful handwashing with soap. Basic food safety precautions and disinfection of drinking water prevents shigellosis from food and water. Improvements in worker hygiene during vegetable and fruit picking and packing may prevent shigellosis caused by contaminated produce. When a community-wide outbreak occurs, a community-wide approach to promote handwashing and basic hygiene among children can stop the outbreak. The latest guidance for responding to Shigellosis events and/or outbreaks can be found here.

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