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What Causes Dysentery?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dysentery is an infection that usually causes diarrhea. The infection is often passed on through improper hygiene, and one of its most common causes is not washing the hands after using public toilets. It is spread from person to person, and it's very common for one individual to pass it on to the rest his or her family members. From there, it can be passed on to many people in the general public. The infection can last and be spread for around four weeks.

It is also possible to spread dysentery through contaminated food. Poor countries that have inadequate sanitation systems can be rife with this illness, as the water systems in these countries can include the microbes that cause infection. This is why people are advised not to drink the water or take ice in their drinks in certain places.

There are two main types of dysentery: bacillary and amoebic. Of the two, bacillary is more common, and it involves bacteria from the Shigella genus entering through the mouth and multiplying in the bowel. The symptoms are usually mild and disappear within a few days to a week. The main symptom of bacillary infection is usually severe diarrhea, which can be watery and sometimes contains blood or pus. There may also be vomiting, fever, and abdominal pains.

Amoebic dysentery can stay in the body’s system for months, and sometimes even years, without symptoms. This type of infection can be passed on when an infected person goes to the toilet and does not wash his or her hands carefully afterwards. Poor hygiene standards contribute to the infection being passed from the toilet to other people. Symptoms of this illness are similar to those of the bacillary variety, although there may be more blood in the stool and defecation may be painful. This is because the infection attacks the large intestine and causes it to bleed.

This illness usually clears up on its own over time. In some cases, medical professionals will give a patient fluids if the diarrhea and vomiting are severe. Minerals and salts that are lost also need to be replaced, so in severe cases, hospital treatment may be necessary. If the bacterial type does not clear up, then a medical professional can administer antibiotics.

Antibiotics may also be given to prevent the infection of other people. It is very important for people traveling in countries where there are questions about the safety of the water to be attentive to their hygiene. Drinking only bottled water can reduce the risk of infection.

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Discussion Comments
By anon153376 — On Feb 17, 2011

How many people has it killed or infected.

By anon124146 — On Nov 04, 2010

how do you know when you get it?

By anon89330 — On Jun 09, 2010

Thanks. Very useful for a report.

By anon75983 — On Apr 08, 2010

how can you get it?

By anon66107 — On Feb 17, 2010

how long does it last?

By anon66106 — On Feb 17, 2010

i find that this is a very useful site for my science class. thanks, wiseGEEK.

By anon64588 — On Feb 08, 2010

is this a problem that is common in horses?

By anon60335 — On Jan 13, 2010

how do people get it?

By anon56421 — On Dec 14, 2009

Dysentery is very dangerous and most of the websites only say bacteria or protozoan infestations cause dysentery.

By anon50450 — On Oct 28, 2009

Slaves suffered from this during the middle passage. Random but it's true!

By anon49955 — On Oct 24, 2009

Thanks for the info.

By weakened — On May 18, 2007

This maybe a stupid question as i know that Dysentery can be passed onto others, but was wanting to know if it can be passed through sexuall intercourse?

Thanks

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