Public Health England (PHE) has called out “inaccurate” news reports claiming England and Wales is in the midst of a shigella outbreak.
A spokesperson for the health body told HuffPost UK: “The shigella reports this morning were completely inaccurate as there is no outbreak according to our evidence.”
Shigella are bacteria that cause an illness called shigellosis or bacillary dysentery. Symptoms of the illness include diarrhoea (which can sometimes be bloody) and abdominal cramps.
In a statement released to the media on Thursday afternoon, PHE said: “There is currently no evidence of an increase in reports of Shigella infections across England and Wales and we are not aware of any unusual situations or current outbreaks due to Shigellosis.”
The health body said it routinely monitors all reports of gastrointestinal infections so as to detect and rapidly respond to any outbreaks of disease - meaning if there is an outbreak, it will be first to alert members of the public.
It’s still worth being aware of symptoms and prevention when it comes to the infection, so here’s what you need to know:
Hygiene is incredibly important in preventing the spread of shigella.
Members of the public are encouraged to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water to prevent bacteria from spreading. This is particularly important after doing things such as using the toilet, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food.
As mentioned previously, the main symptom of shigellosis is diarrhoea which can contain blood or mucus.
According to the NHS, other symptoms include: very painful stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and a fever of 38C (100.4F) or above.
It can cause people to be sick for 5-7 days.
Advice from PHE around treatment is that if symptoms do develop, you should check out the NHS Choices website for advice on how to manage diarrhoea. This includes tips on avoiding dehydration through simple measures like drinking plenty of fluids and using oral rehydration solutions.
Interestingly, NHS advises against using antidiarrhoeal medications such as loperamide “because they can make things worse”.
Painkillers may also help ease any pain, it said.
To prevent bacteria from spreading, people experiencing diarrhoea should stay away from work or school until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
If symptoms worsen or you have underlying medical conditions, you should book in to see your GP.
Public Health England said most infections resolve without antibiotic treatment. It did add, however, that in a small number of cases shigella infection can result in more severe issues.