PRECAUTIONS are being advised following an increase in cases of shigella among gay men in Sydney.

With thousands of visitors expected in Sydney for next week’s Mardi Gras parade, NSW Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch is concerned that more shigella infections may occur.

Shigella is a bacteria that causes a bowel infection with symptoms including stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and nausea.

According to NSW Health a recent increase in cases appears to be among gay men in inner Sydney and it coincides with a similar rise amongst gay men in Victoria.

The infection is transmitted through faeces and can appear any time between 12 hours and four days after exposure and generally lasts between four and seven days.

Infection takes place when tiny particles of faecal matter enter the mouth and can happen through sexual contact such as rimming, by getting infected faeces on your fingers and then touching your mouth or by putting contaminated objects like food, pens and cigarettes into your mouth.

ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said the LGBTI health organisation was working alongside NSW Health to ensure gay men were aware of the increase and what precautions they could take to prevent infection.

“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.

“The most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting shigella is to wash hands thoroughly after any sexual activity, after touching equipment like used condoms and sex toys, after going to the toilet or before handling food.”

Meanwhile, as Mardi Gras gets into full swing, ACON is advising revellers to look after themselves and each other in relation to HIV, sexual health, street safety, and alcohol and other drugs.

A two-minute video campaign that features Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham has also been launched with the aim of getting more men tested for STIs to help end HIV transmission by 2020.




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