What is Dysentery?

Dysentery is an illness involving severe diarrhea that is often associated with blood in the feces . It is caused by ingestion of food containing bacteria, causing a disease in which inflammation of the intestines affect the body significantly. There are two major types: shigellosis , which is caused by one of several type of Shigella bacteria ; and amoebic dysentery , which is caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica.

Some cases involve vomiting and fever. The diarrhoea causes people suffering from dysentery to lose important salts and fluids from the body. This can be fatal if the body dehydrates. This disease struck the men in the trenches as there was no proper sanitation. Latrines in the trenches were pits four to five feet deep. When they were within one foot they were supposed to be filled in and the soldiers had the job of digging a new one. Sometimes there was not time for this and men used a nearby shell-hole.

What are the causes of Dysentery?

The condition is caused by bacteria which usually enter the body through the mouth in contaminated food or water, or by physical contact with a person who has already been infected.

The bacterium Shigella dysenteriae type 1 (Sd1) causes a particularly severe form of the disease known as epidemic dysentery.

Three other types of of bacteria from the Shigella family – Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei and Shigella boydii – can also cause dysentery, but usually these forms are less dangerous, and do not cause large epidemics.

The disease may also be caused by other types of bacteria, including Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, and some strains of Salmonella.

What are the symptoms of Dysentery?

The list of signs and symptoms mentioned in various sources for Dysentery includes those listed below. Note that Dysentery symptoms usually refers to various symptoms known to a patient, but the phrase Dysentery signs may refer to those signs only noticable by a doctor:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Tenesmus.
  • Bloody stool.
  • Mucus in stool.
  • Intestine inflammation.
  • Colon inflammation.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Fever.

What treatment can be done for Dysentery?

During an epidemic, all dysentery patients should receive an antibiotic to which Sd1 from local cases has been shown to be sensitive. Dehydration should be treated with oral re hydration salts or, if severe, with intravenous fluids. Urgent efforts should be made to obtain enough antimicrobials to treat all patients, but if in short supply they should be reserved for those at highest risk of secondary complications and death. These would include children under five years of age, adults older than 50 years, patients presenting with dehydration, and those with serious underlying conditions such as malnutrition. Patients should be identified as early as possible so that treatment can be initiated with a minimum of delay.