Guide to Dysentery caused by Shigella Abroad

There are a wide variety of infections and illnesses that could ruin your break abroad, and while some can cause you minor discomfort others can be far more serious. Dysentery, which can be caused by the Shigella bacteria, can result in a serious holiday illness with rather unpleasant symptoms.

In this guide we're going to explain the symptoms that can manifest from a Shigella infection, how you can avoid it, and how to claim against your tour operator if you become ill.

What is Shigella?

The Sonnei species of Shigella is a form of bacterial infection which causes Dysentery in unwary holidaymakers who have been exposed to contaminated food or water and unsanitary conditions abroad. It can cause a range of symptoms to manifest including inflammation of the intestines, bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and rectal tenesmus (the feeling that you need to pass a stool but can't).

How to Avoid Catching and Spreading Shigella

Shigella can spread rapidly between people at resorts through direct contact with taps, door handles, toilet flushes and other surfaces which may have been contaminated with infected faeces. Like many illnesses that can spread in places with a large number of people, there are precautions that you and your resort can take to reduce the risk of an outbreak:

  • What You Can Do – One of the most beneficial things that you can do to prevent contracting and further spreading harmful bacterium is to keep on top of your personal hygiene and regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Other steps that you can take include avoiding hotel food prepared and washed with local tap water, only drinking bottled water or tinned beverages from reputable sources, and eating fruit that can be peeled.
  • It's important to be vigilant around the hotel swimming pool, as young children who have yet to be properly toilet trained can contaminate swimming pool water with Shigella through infected faeces, so be sure to shower both before and after swimming.
  • What Your Resort Should Do
  • – Your resort should keep on top of their hygiene routine and frequently clean public areas, particularly bathrooms, as well as regularly cleaning handrails, door handles and other frequently used public areas with disinfectant.

Countries Most at Risk

While Shigella is not limited to any particular location, in our experience many of the claims that we handle are for holidaymakers who have visited sub-tropical holiday destinations, such as the following:

The Effects of Shigella

  1. How it's spread – Shigella is usually transmitted through contact with contaminated faecal matter, which can be found in un-chlorinated swimming pool water, as well as food that has been contaminated by someone who has come into contact with Shigella. Flies and other wildlife have also been known to spread the disease, so make sure that they're not present in dining areas.
  2. Dangers to Your Health – Dysentery can be very harmful, particularly to young children, the elderly and those already in poor health. One of the biggest risks to your health is the severe dehydration that you may suffer due to diarrhoea, so be sure to stay hydrated using rehydration salts if necessary.
  3. Incubation period – The incubation period for Shigella is usually between 1 and 3 days, however symptoms can manifest anywhere between 12 hours and 7 days, meaning that you might not experience symptoms until returning to the UK.
  4. Duration and Treatment – Symptoms of Shigella typically last for between 1 and 14 days and are usually self-limiting, meaning they can resolve without the need for treatment, however it's advisable to receive a diagnosis from a medical professional if you suffer a holiday illness.

What to do if Your Resort Lets You Down

The staff at your resort should prevent potentially infectious food handlers from working and swimming pools should be shut and cleaned in the event of a faecal accident, but it's also your tour operators' responsibility to make sure that the destinations they offer are safe.

In the event that you become ill on holiday due to negligence on the part of your resort, you may be able to make a claim for compensation against your tour operator.

How to Claim Holiday Illness Compensation

If your holiday has been ruined by Shigella or any other illness you should inform your tour operator representative and a member of your resort staff while on holiday so that they can prevent the further spread of infection and provide you with the appropriate care.

Upon returning home we recommend instructing a specialist holiday illness solicitor to handle your claim against your tour operator for you. In addition to relieving yourself from the stress and frustration that handling your own claim could cause you, your tour operators' legal team may attempt to settle your holiday claim with vouchers or a payments at a fraction of your claims true value.

For example, your tour operator may claim the following:

"Whilst it is typically assumed that illness is due to the consumption of contaminated food and water, or lack of hygiene, there are many other causes that should be taken into account. Many illnesses that are initially thought to be caused by food poisoning can often be attributed to the sudden and vast change in lifestyle, climate and diet. Illness can be acquired on holiday as easily as it can be at home, and by living in close proximity to each other; an illness can spread quite rapidly. In the vast majority of cases it is difficult to state exactly the origin of any such illness."

Some tour operators' may rely on you accepting a statement like this and not pursuing your claim any further. At Simpson Millar we will work diligently to get your compensation, utilising the facts, your evidence and our expertise to strengthen your claim.

Monitoring Shigella Sonnei and Dysentery Illness at Your Hotel

We monitor a range of hotels for illness outbreaks of dysentery causing illnesses such as Dysentery caused by Shigella Sonnei. There's usually a pattern to holiday illness claims originating from the certain destinations, so before booking we recommend visiting our Holiday Hotel Watch website.

Shigella Case Study

We handle many claims for clients who have suffered dysentery due to a Shigella infection, helping them to claim compensation for suffering, loss of enjoyment and financial losses due to a holiday illness. Below is an example of how we have represented a client who travelled to Egypt:

Our client Miss F is claimed holiday illness compensation from Thomson Holidays following an episode of Shigella Sonnei contracted whilst in Egypt. Along with her partner, Miss F stayed at the Mirabel Park Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh, during which she endured profuse diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fever, rigors and headaches.

Miss F was diagnosed with Dysentery upon her return to the UK but has gone on to suffer a post-infective irritable bowel due to sub-optimal food hygiene and handling at her hotel. Thomson Holidays have admitted liability for her illness and have agreed to compensate our client.

Make a Claim for Holiday Illness Compensation

If you have suffered from Dysentery caused by Shigella or any other package holiday illness that can be attributed to poor hygiene or inadequate food safety standards, then your tour operator is at fault.

We can help you claim compensation for your ruined holiday on 'no win no fee' terms, meaning that you only pay us if we are successful and we'll never charge you for any shortfall following a successful claim.

Contact us today to find out if you’re eligible to make a claim by completing our online enquiry form and we will call you back, or alternatively call us on 0808 145 1353 for no-obligation advice.

Latest News

Get In Touch

Nick Harris - Head of International Travel Law - Manchester

Nick Harris
Head of Holiday Travel Claims (Consumer)

View profile

Meet the Team