What is Shigella, the bacteria that killed a girl after she ate shawarma in Kerala?

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What is Shigella, the bacteria that killed a girl after she ate shawarma in Kerala?

Kerala health department identified Shigella bacteria as the cause for the food poisoning incident in Kasaragod It claimed the life of a 16-year-old girl and led to 30-odd others being admitted to hospital.

What is Shigella?

  • It is a bacterium that belongs to the enterobacter family — a group of bacteria that reside in the intestine, not all of which cause disease in humans.
  • It mainly affects the intestine and results in diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, stomach pain, and fever.
  • The infection spreads easily as it takes only “a small number of bacteria to make someone ill.
  • It is a food- and water-borne infection, and can happen when someone consumes contaminated food, unwashed fruit or vegetables.
  • It is easily spread by direct or indirect contact with the excrement of the patient.
  • One can get the infection if they swim or take a bath in contaminated water.

Not very common

  • It is not a very common infection.
  • Usually infections like typhoid and cholera are seen because of contaminated foods.
  • Perhaps one in 100 cases of diarrhoea would be shigellosis.
  • There are four types of Shigella bacteria that affect humans —
    • Shigella sonnei
    • Shigella flexneri
    • Shigella boydii, and
    • Shigella dysenteriae.
  • The fourth type causes the most severe disease because of the toxin it produces.

Death is unusual

  • Infection does not generally kill, unless the patient has a weak immune system or the pathogen is resistant to the antibiotics that are prescribed.
  • It is treatable condition; if a patient reaches hospital on time they can effectively be treated using IV antibiotics.
  • The problem occurs when the antibiotics do not work because the bacteria are resistant to it.
  • Shigella produces a lot of toxins that can affect all other organs.
  • So, if the bacteria continue to proliferate in the body even after giving the antibiotics, it will continue to produce toxins, which can then affect the kidney, cause seizures, lead to multi-organ failure, and shock, and even turn fatal.
  • This, however, does not happen in most cases.
  • The mortality of the infection is less than 1%

Warning signs

  • Major symptome are:
    • Loose motions accompanied with high fever, blood in the stool, or constant vomiting such that cannot keep any fluids down.
    • A person who has severe diarrhoea must see a doctor within a day.
    • Patient with mild diarrhoea may wait for three to four days before going to a doctor.
  • It is true of any diarrhoea, whether it is because of Shigella or any other reason.

Precautions to take

  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after a meal.
  • Wash hands properly after a bowel movement.
  • Ensure drinking water is clean and the fruits and vegetables are fresh.
  • Products such as milk, chicken, and fish can get infected easily and must be kept at a proper temperature.
  • They must also be properly cooked

Exam Track

  • Water bourne Diseses
  • Different Types of Pathogens
  • AMR
  • Red Line Campaign
  • shigellosis