Shigella is transmitted if the bacteria in faeces gets into your mouth during sex. Men who have sex with men are particularly at risk. It causes stomach cramps, diarrhoea and a fever.

What is shigella?

Shigella is a bacterial infection. It causes stomach cramps, diarrhoea and a fever. Men who have sex with men are particularly at risk.


Shigella caused by bacteria. It is highly infectious and a tiny number of bacteria can cause severe symptoms.

There are several different types of Shigella, and you can get infected many times especially if you have low immunity.


Shigella is transmitted by contact with the faeces (shit) of an infected person. for instance, through ass play e.g. rimming,  fingering, fisting etc. 

Signs and symptoms of shigella include diarrhoea lasting more than 48 hours (often with blood in it), stomach cramps and fever.  Symptoms usually start within four days of getting infected and can be mistaken for food poisoning


Wash your hands (arse and dick too if you can) during and after sex, especially if you’re rimming, fingering or handling used condoms and sex toys.

Using condoms for anal sex and latex gloves for fingering or fisting offers some protection. If you live a Yorkshire MESMAC area you may be able to access our free condom scheme here

A condom can be cut into a square to make a barrier for rimming.

Don’t share sex toys if you do use a fresh condom over the toy for each person using it.

Don’t share douching equipment.

There is a risk of Shigella from licking skin which has bacteria on it like the buttocks, groin, dick or skin near the arse. So after sex, having a full body shower is preferable to a quick sink wash.


Most people get over shigella without medicines. Shigella infection is easily cured with antibiotics.

A full sexual health check-up is a good idea.

What if I think I have shigella?

Visit your GP or a sexual health clinic to get tested, explaining you may have picked up a gut infection from sex, possibly Shigella. The doctor needs to know this so you get the right tests and treatment.

If you have a bad case of diarrhoea it’s a good idea to drink plenty of fluids to replace the ones you have lost.

The doctor will be able to advise you on whether you are able to return to work – this will depend on the type of work you do. If you work involved handling food or working with patients, you should not return to work until shigella is ruled out.

What if I have shigella?

Wait for 48 hours after the symptoms stop before going back to work. You cannot go back to work until given the all clear by a public health official if your work involves handling food or contact with patients .

A person with Shigella can be infectious for up to a month. During that time if you have Shigella (or any severe diarrhoea):

Wash your hands frequently! Do this after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Use warm water and soap. Avoid preparing food for other people while you’re ill or until a week after symptoms stop.

You will need to avoid: 

Sex – until a week after symptoms stop.

Sharing towels – use separate towels at home, and clean all taps, door handles, toilet handles, levers and seats with hot soapy water frequently.

Do you want more information on Shigella?

Please download this information leaflet
Find out more