What Is Dysentery?
In the days before public water supplies were purified, dysentery outbreaks were a major health problem in countries around the world. When sewage came in contact with drinking water or food, germs could infect large groups of people with dysentery. The results, often caused by dehydration, could be fatal.
In some areas of the world, dysentery remains a stubborn challenge for health officials today. An intestinal inflammation in the colon that causes diarrhea with blood and mucus, dysentery also may cause stomach cramps and fever. As recently as spring 2015, a dysentery outbreak in a small Philippine district made some 30 people sick.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are two different types of dysentery: amoebic and bacillary. Amoebic—caused by a type of amoeba—is more common in the tropics. Bacillary—caused by bacteria such as Shigella, E. coli, and Salmonella—usually occurs among people who haven’t traveled to the tropics recently.1,2