How can a Shigella infection be prevented?

The spread of Shigella from an infected person can be stopped by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and water.[11] The ill individual should practice this, as well as any contacts. Supervised hand washing of all children should be followed in day care centers and as soon as children return home.[12] Young children with a Shigella infection, or with diarrhea of any cause, should not be in contact with uninfected children.

If a child in diapers has shigellosis, everyone who changes the child’s diapers should be sure the diapers are disposed of properly in a closed-lid garbage can, and should wash his or her hands carefully with soap and warm water immediately after changing the diapers. After use, the diaper changing area should be wiped down with disinfectant, such as household bleach or bactericidal wipes.

At swimming pools, maintaining a chlorine level of at least 0.5-PPM will kill Shigella. At swimming beaches, children not yet toilet trained should be excluded from public swimming areas; stay clear if this rule is broken. Children with diarrhea should never be taken to public swimming areas.

Basic food safety precautions will also help to prevent shigellosis. Shigella organisms are killed by heat used in cooking. People who have shigellosis or any diarrhea should not prepare food for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the bacterium.

Drink water only if it has been chlorinated (most tap water) or treated with ozone (most bottled water) and then you know it will not contain pathogenic bacteria. Consume only pasteurized dairy products.

In the developing world, shigellosis is far more common and is present in most communities most of the time. Simple precautions taken while traveling to the developing world can also prevent getting shigellosis.[13] Drink beverages only if they are imported (e.g. Evian), carbonated (e.g. cola – without ice), boiled (e.g. coffee) or have been in contact with alcohol for a prolonged period (e.g. wine or beer, not mixed drinks). Eat a cooked diet with the exception of fruits you peel yourself.

11. Doyle MP, Ruoff KL, Weinberg WG. Reducing transmission of infectious agents in the home. Dairy, Food and Environmental Sanitation, 2000; 20:330-337.

12. Krilov LR; Barone SR; Mandel FS, et al. Impact of an infection control program in a specialized preschool. Am J Infect Control, 1996; 24:167-73.

13. Weinberg WG. No Germs Allowed! How to avoid infectious diseases at home and on the road. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1996.