Health warning over shigella outbreak in Sydney
NSW Health has issued a warning following an outbreak of shigella amongst gay men in Sydney.
Shigella is a bacteria that causes bowel infections. The infection is transmitted through faeces, and symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and nausea. The infection can appear any time between 12 hours and four days from exposure and symptoms can persist for up to a week.
NSW Health says the increase in cases appears to be amongst gay men in inner Sydney, and coincides with a recent increase in shigella cases among gay men Victoria.
With an influx of thousands of gay visitors expected for the Mardi Gras season, NSW Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch is concerned further infections may occur.
Infections can arise from sexual contact during activities such as rimming or when tiny particles of faeces enter the mouth.
The best way to avoid infection is to wash hands thoroughly after any sexual activity, after touching equipment like used condoms and sex toys, and after going to the toilet or before handling food.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said infection could be dangerous for those with compromised immune systems.
“The disease can be worse in anyone with a poor immune system, such as people with HIV who are more likely to have severe symptoms which may result in a prolonged illness and even hospitalisation,” he said.
Parkhill advised gay men should also avoid sex while they have symptoms and for at least seven days after the symptoms clear.
NSW Health said anyone with prolonged diarrhoea should see a doctor, as antibiotics may need to be prescribed if a shigella infection is present.