Melbourne Mardi Gras revellers have been warned by NSW’s peak HIV organisation to play it safe when partying in Sydney this weekend after a recent increase in shigella diagnoses.

“There has been an increase in cases of shigella among gay men reported in inner Sydney recently,” ACON community health director Geoff Honnor told the Star Observer.

“The numbers are small but it’s timely to remember that shigella is around.”

Shigella, also known as bacillary dysentery, is a gut infection that is easily passed during sexual activity or through poor hygiene around food and water. Transmission can occur from even microscopic amounts of infected faeces getting into the mouth, which during sex could come from fingers, rimming, anal sex, or handling used sex toys.

Symptoms can include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and fever, and can occur several hours to two days after exposure.

Other symptoms may include rectal bleeding, dehydration and blood, pus or mucus in stools.
Symptoms can be particularly severe in people who are HIV positive but shigella is treatable with antibiotics.

“If you have any symptoms of shigella please see your doctor,” Honnor said. “To stop transmission please avoid having sex until the shigella has been treated.”

People who have shigella should be particularly vigilant about hygiene when preparing or handling other people’s food.

Honnor said the most effective way to prevent infection during sex was to use gloves when any part of the hand is placed in the anus and to always wash hands with soap and water after handling used condoms or toys.

Hands should also be washed after sex, particularly if it involves any arse play.

ACON also said those enjoying Mardi Gras season should be aware of their general health safety.

“We’re urging gay men to help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmissible infections by using condoms and water-based lube wherever and whenever they’re having sex with casual partners,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.

ACON will have 40,000 free condom packs available at major GLBT venues and events during Mardi Gras.

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