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LONDON -- The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has issued a warning about an outbreak of a form of dysentery spread by gay men during sex.
The outbreak of Shigella flexneri dysentery has centered around Greater Manchester and London, with 14 and five reported cases among gay men in the respective areas over the past six months. The majority of infections are among 30-50 year-olds, and the HPA has released the alert to help contain the spread of the illness across the country.
The majority of cases of Shigella flexneri dysentery, which is transferred through food or drinking water contaminated with human faeces, are related to travel abroad. But the HPA warns sex between two men can also pass on the infection.
Dr. Isabel Oliver, head of the outbreak control team at the HPA, said “It’s very uncommon to see outbreaks of this illness that are not linked to foreign travel. We are taking steps to raise awareness among the affected groups. We’re monitoring the situation very closely, to help us understand how best to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.”
The independent agency urges sexually active gay men with symptoms of Shigella flexneri dysentery, which include bloody diarrhoea, to consult their doctor. The infection can be treated by antibiotics, with most people making a full recovery.
Dr. Oliver said: “The key message here is for all men who have sex with men to go to their doctor if they have diarrhea, to see whether they’re infected with Shigella flexneri. If they do have this illness, avoiding having sex until they’ve made a full recovery will reduce the risk of onward transmission. Washing hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food, after going to the toilet and, if having sex, before and afterwards, may also lower the risk of people with this illness spreading it to others. Ingesting even a small number of Shigella germs can lead to infection."
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