Shigella is a very infectious gut infection that can cause bloody diarrhoea, fever, and stomach pain. Transmission can occur when small amounts of infected faeces get into the mouth from fingers, rimming or having sex, scat play, or handling used sex toys.

We are currently experiencing an extensively-drug-resistant (XDR) shigella outbreak among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Aotearoa, so it's more important than ever to test if you experience symptoms.

XDR shigella is harder to treat, and some people can experience severe symptoms and hospitalisation.



What is XDR shigella?

Extensively-drug-resistant (XDR) shigella means that the bacteria is resistant to many of the drugs used to treat it. This means that you may feel sicker for longer and have less options to help treat it. While most people who have XDR shigella will recover in 5-6 days, some people can experience severe symptoms and hospitalisation.


How do I prevent Shigella?

Shigella is transmitted when small amounts of infected faeces get into your mouth, which makes sex between men a risky environment. There are ways to minimise the risk of acquiring shigella:

  • Clean your genitals and anus before and after sex
  • Wash your hands after sex, fingering someone, handling sex toys, and removing condoms, especially before eating
  • Clean your genitals if you’re moving from anal to oral sex
  • Avoid sharing sex toys without washing them thoroughly
  • Avoid ass play if you have had diarrhoea in the past 2 weeks
  • Wear gloves for fisting and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards
  • If you're worried about shigella, consider using a condom or dental dam when rimming someone



Symptoms usually start 1-3 days after exposure, but can occur up to one week after being exposed to the bacteria. The most common symptoms are diarrhoea (which may be bloody), fever, and stomach pain, however not everyone develops symptoms.


What should I do If I think I have shigella?

If you experience symptoms of shigella after having sex with someone (particularly if it involves rimming) then talk with a GP or sexual health service to arrange a test and any necessary treatment. Drink plenty of water and fluids to keep hydrated.

If you had sex in the week before becoming unwell, contact those sexual partners to let them know. This will help them get treatment if they are very unwell, and will stop the spread.

Avoid any form of sexual contact until 2 weeks after the diarrhoea has stopped, and practice very good hand washing. The bacteria can shed for some time after symptoms resolve.


I am living with HIV

People living with HIV who have a weakened immune system (i.e. if not on effective treatment, or have an AIDS-related illness) are at an increased risk of severe and long-lasting infection.


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