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21 March 2017
Amoebic Dysentery  

Causative agent

Amoebic dysentery is an intestinal infection caused by a protozoan parasite called Entamoeba histolytica.

Clinical features

Infection by Entamoeba histolytica may be asymptomatic. The symptoms of amoebic dysentery include fever, chills, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and passing stool with blood and/or mucus, etc. Entamoeba histolytica may invade the liver to form an abscess. Less commonly, it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain. Other complications include inflammation of the intestine and in severe cases, perforation.

Mode of transmission

Transmission of amoebic dysentery occurs mainly through faecal-oral route including ingestion of faecal contaminated food or water containing the cyst of Entamoeba histolytica. Transmission can also occur through person-to-person contact such as diaper-changing and oral-anal sex.

Risk factors

People who live in institutions, travellers who travel to or immigrants from developing countries with poor sanitary conditions, and men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of getting the disease.

Incubation period

The incubation period is variable, and may range from a few days to several months. It is usually 2 - 4 weeks.

Management

Treatment may include appropriate use of antibiotics.

Prevention

  1. Maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene. Adopt the 5 Keys to Food Safety in handling food, i.e. Choose (Choose safe raw materials); Clean (Keep hands and utensils clean); Separate (Separate raw and cooked food); Cook (Cook thoroughly); and Safe Temperature (Keep food at safe temperature) to prevent foodborne diseases.
  2. Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water before handling food or eating, and after using toilet or handling faecal matter.
  3. Drink only boiled water from the mains or bottled drinks from reliable sources.
  4. Avoid drinks with ice of unknown origin.
  5. Purchase fresh food from hygienic and reliable sources. Do not patronise illegal hawkers.
  6. Eat only thoroughly cooked food.
  7. Wash and peel fruit by yourself and avoid eating raw vegetables.
  8. Exclude infected persons and asymptomatic carriers from handling food and from providing care to children, elderly and immunocompromised people.
  9. Refrain from work or school, and seek medical advice if suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea.

* Please visit the website of Centre for Food Safety for more information on food safety.

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