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Stomach infection affecting gay men in San Diego

In 2017, 63-percent of the cases in San Diego were among men, most of them identified as gay or bisexual.
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A rare infection has seen a recent spike in the U.S. and San Diego's LGBT community is one of the places where it has increased the most. 

The rare infection is called shigellosis, or Shigella,  and it's an intestinal disease. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency explains that there are many ways to contract the ailment one of which is "rimming," a sexual practice in which partners use their mouths on or near the rectum. Basically, people who engage in any activities that might result in the ingestion of fecal matter are at risk. 

When fecal matter gets into the stomach that increases the risk of a Shigella infection. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain which can last up to seven days. 

In 2017, 63-percent of the cases in San Diego were among men, most of them identified as gay or bisexual. There was also an increase in cases among the homeless community. 

As of July 2018, 25-percent of reported cases in San Diego were among gay and bisexual men and 7-percent involved homeless people

“Shigellosis is a very contagious disease, but there are many steps people can take to reduce their chances of getting it,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The infection can be prevented by conducting frequent and thorough hand washing; disinfecting any areas that may be contaminated, such as restrooms or diaper changing areas; avoiding swallowing water from untreated pools and ponds, and not preparing or serving food to others when having diarrhea.”

Reported cases tend to increase in the late summer autumn. 

Health and Human Sevices Agency issued guidance for prevention and treatment

  • Practice good hand hygiene at all times washing your hands with soap and water, especially before eating or preparing food for others or changing diapers
  • Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes or untreated swimming pools
  • Be aware of your HIV status
  • Be aware of the local increase in shigellosis, which can be a severe illness, particularly in those with reduced immunity.
  • Seek care for diarrheal illness, especially with fever or bloody diarrhea, and be sure that their healthcare provider tests to see if symptoms are caused by Shigella.
  • Discuss antibiotic treatment for shigellosis with their doctors to shorten the duration of illness and reduce the risk of infecting others.
  • Abstain from sex, for several days after you stop having diarrhea, to prevent spreading the illness to others.

Shigella takes about a week to pass but in severe cases, it can last longer and require a regimen of antibiotics. 

For more information on Shigella click HERE