Shigellosis is a type of food poisoning that can cause diarrhoea and stomach cramps. 

It is caused by the shigella bacteria. You can get it from eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated (made unsafe) by the bacteria.

It is not common in New Zealand and is often caught overseas. Travellers going to developing countries are at risk when they have contaminated food or drinks. Contamination often results from poor hygiene practices.

If you are concerned about shigellosis, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

Shigella germs are in the faeces (poo) of sick people while they have diarrhoea, and for up to a week or two after the diarrhoea has stopped. The bacteria are very contagious and it takes just a small number to make someone sick.

People can get sick with shigella when they put something in their mouths or swallow something that has come into contact with the faeces of someone else who is sick with it.

Proper hand hygiene is the main way to avoid catching shigellosis.

The symptoms of shigellosis usually start one to three days after exposure to the bacteria and include:

  • diarrhoea, sometimes with blood
  • fever
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting (being sick).

Some people who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the bacteria to others.

People with shigellosis usually get better within four to seven days. However, some people, especially young children and older people, can get very ill as they are more likely to become dehydrated, meaning their body doesn’t have enough water to function properly. They may need hospital treatment.

If you are travelling overseas (especially to developing countries) be careful about the food you eat and the water (and ice) you drink.

Contact Healthline or your doctor or practice nurse if you have a fever, bloody diarrhoea, severe stomach cramping or tenderness, are dehydrated, or feel very sick.


If you have shigella

Shigellosis is highly infectious. People who have shigella are required to take precautions to help protect others. These include:

  • People who work as food handlers, early childhood workers or health care workers in high-risk occupations must not return to work until they have provided two negative faeces (poo) specimens at least two days apart.
  • Children must not go back to early childhood centres (including kindergartens, play centres, kohanga reo, Pacific island language nests) or school until they have provided two negative faeces (poo) specimens at least two days apart.
  • Anyone else must not go back to work until they have been free of symptoms for two days.

You must not go swimming in a pool until you have been free of symptoms, especially diarrhoea, for two weeks.

Shigella is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to monitor the number of people who have the disease and give advice on how to reduce its spread. 


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 29.11.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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