Health Alert Over Rising Cases Of Sexually Transmitted Gastro Superbug In Victoria
Health officials in Victoria have reported an alarming increase in cases of shigellosis, a bacterial infection caused by Shigella, that are resistant to crucial antibiotics.
An advisory issued by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Adjunct Clinical Professor Brett Sutton, said that an increasing number of cases of antibiotic-resistant Shigellosis was being detected among men who have recently engaged in sexual contact with other men, as well as among returned travellers from countries with high infection rates.
“Shigellosis is generally a self-limiting infection but is highly contagious and can be potentially serious,” the advisory said. “Men who have had recent sexual contact with other men; and returned travellers from countries with high rates of infection are at higher risk of contracting shigellosis, including from antibiotic-resistant Shigella strains.”
Most Cases Resolve On Their Own
Its symptoms include sudden-onset diarrhoea, often accompanied by pus, mucus, or blood, as well as fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. While most cases resolve on their own, certain vulnerable populations, such as young children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems, can experience severe illness and complications.
The primary mode of transmission for shigellosis is the faecal-oral route, including during sexual contact, particularly oral and anal sex. Symptoms usually manifest within one to three days after exposure, although some cases have shown symptoms as early as 12 hours or as late as one week. Infected individuals continue to shed the Shigella bacteria in their faeces, making them contagious for up to four weeks after their symptoms subside.
To curb the spread of shigellosis and minimise the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections, health officials are emphasising preventive measures. Practising safer sex, which includes using barrier protection, and maintaining good hand hygiene are crucial steps in preventing transmission.
Regular and thorough handwashing, especially after using the toilet and before eating or handling food, is highly recommended. Individuals with gastrointestinal symptoms should refrain from sexual activities, preparing food or drinks for others, or providing personal care to others until at least 48 hours after symptoms have resolved.
For two weeks following symptom resolution, health officials have advised use of barrier protection during sexual activities and limiting practices that involve faecal-oral exposure, such as rimming, which can significantly increase the risk of spreading the infection. Maintaining good hygiene by showering and washing hands before and after sex is also strongly encouraged.