The number of shigellosis cases among gay men in New South Wales is up this year and there is concern that the outbreak could worsen, according to a report on a local LGBT news site.
The number of shigellosis cases reported to date has eclipsed 150 cases for the year, which is comparable to the numbers for the whole of 2015.
The Sydney area has been particularly hard hit. NSW Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Christine Selvey said although the numbers are already at 150, it’s likely just the beginning:
“However, it is likely the notifications are just the tip of the iceberg as many people sick with shigellosis will recover without seeing their doctor or getting tested.”
Around 25 percent of infections are also presented with a co-infection like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and/or Giardia, Selvey notes.
Shigellosis, caused by the bacteria Shigella, is spread from person-to-person through hand-to-mouth contact with the stool of an infected person. This frequently occurs through direct contact with the unwashed hands of an infected person or through food or drink handled by an infected person.
Symptoms typically appear 1-3 days after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and stomach cramps. These symptoms typically go away by themselves in 4-7 days; however treatment with antibiotics may relieve symptoms or make them go away faster. Some people with shigellosis will have no symptoms but are still able to spread the infection to others.
Specific preventive recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for men who have sex with men (MSM) include:
- Avoid sex while ill or while partners are ill with diarrhea and for a few weeks after recovering.
- Wash hands, genitals, and anus with soap before and after sex.
- Use barriers such as dental dams and gloves during anal rimming and fisting.
- Use condoms during anal or oral sex