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You can be infected with Shigella by

  • Eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by food handlers infected with Shigella who did not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom
  • Eating vegetables grown in fields containing contaminated sewage
  • Eating food contaminated by flies that bred in or contacted infected feces
  • Drinking or swimming in contaminated water

Ingestion of an extremely low number of bacteria, 10 to 100, can cause infection. If you are infected with Shigella, you can still pass the bacteria to others even if you have no symptoms of shigellosis. Toddlers and small children under the age of five are at highest risk for infection with shigellosis; many cases are spread in child daycare settings or among families with small children.

If you know you have shigellosis, you should not prepare food or beverages for others until laboratory tests show that you no longer carry Shigella bacteria.

Last Updated January 19, 2012