The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued a warning about an outbreak of an uncommon strain of shigella — a bacterial infection that causes a severe diarrhea, fever, bloody stools, and stomach cramps — impacting gay and bi men in Los Angeles and other Southern California counties.
Shigella flexneri infections are most often spread through contaminated food or via oral-anal sexual contact, such as rimming. The infection is usually treatable with common antibiotics, but without timely treatment, it can turn deadly, as in this case, where three of nine infected men have been hospitalized and two have died.
Four of the infected men are known to be men who've had sex with men, while the sexual habits of an additional four are not yet known. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health is encouraging gay and bisexual men to be particularly vigilant, especially those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms can start within a day or two of exposure.
“If you’re a gay or bisexual man with fever and diarrhea, particularly if it’s bloody, you should get immediate medical care,” Dr. Ward Carpentee told the said in response to the health alert. Carpenter, the associate chief medical officer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, added that it’s not uncommon for there to be clusters of shigella infections among gay men.
In this case, the two men who died are thought to have gotten shigella through oral-anal sexual contact.
In order to stop the outbreak, L.A.'s Department of Public Health advises anyone diagnosed with the disease to abstain from sex and avoid handling food for other people for at least two weeks.