What is Dysentery?

Dysentery is an intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Shigella. It is characterized by bloody and mucousy diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramps, fatigue, back pain and loss of appetite. If left untreated, dysentery can cause severe complications, including dehydration, malnutrition and, in extreme cases, death.

Infection with Shigella is especially common in children, and is usually found in parts of the world with poor sanitation, overcrowding and low levels of hygiene. It is easily spread through poor hand hygiene, contaminated food and water, and close contact with an infected person.

What are the Symptoms of Dysentery?

The symptoms of dysentery are usually categorised into two stages:

  • Stage 1: Rectal pain, cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting and watery stools.
  • Stage 2: Bloody and mucousy stools, with a foul smell and abdominal pain.

Other symptoms may include back pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness and weight loss.

What is the Treatment of Dysentery?

Dysentery is usually treated with antibiotics such as co-trimoxazole, ampicillin, tetracycline, and ciprofloxacin. Treatment should be started as soon as possible, as the symptoms can become severe and lead to dehydration.

In addition to antibiotic treatment, drinking plenty of fluids is essential to prevent dehydration and the associated complications. Oral rehydration salts are sometimes used to replenish electrolytes, while rice-based ORS may be more suitable for children.

Diet is also an important part of treatment, as a low fibre and low fat diet can help reduce the diarrhoea. Bland, low-fibre foods such as yoghurt, rice, mashed potato and bananas are recommended.

How can Dysentery be Prevented?

The best way to prevent dysentery is by practising good hygiene. This includes washing hands properly after using the toilet and before and after handling food. It is also important to keep food and surfaces clean, and avoid swimming in fresh water that may be contaminated by sewage.

It is also important to seek treatment as soon as possible when infected, as the symptoms can worsen quickly and lead to more severe complications.