Preventing dysentery 

Dysentery is spread as a result of poor hygiene.

To minimise the risk of catching the condition, you should:

  • wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and regularly throughout the day, particularly after coming into contact with an infected person
  • wash your hands before handling, eating or cooking food
  • wash your hands before handling babies and feeding children or elderly people
  • keep contact with an infected person to a minimum
  • avoid sharing towels
  • wash the laundry of an infected person on the hottest setting possible

Read more about food safety and hygiene in the home.

Travel advice

Good hygiene and proper sanitation are an enormous challenge for people living in poor conditions in developing countries where there is little or no access to fresh water and disinfectant.

If you're travelling to a country that has a high risk of contamination by the amoeba that causes dysentery, the advice below can help prevent infection.

  • Don't drink the local water unless you're sure that it's sterile (clean). Safe alternatives are bottled water or fizzy drinks from sealed cans or bottles.
  • If the water is not sterile, boil it for several minutes or use chemical disinfectant or a reliable filter.
  • Don't drink from public water fountains or clean your teeth with tap water.
  • Don't have ice in your drinks because it may be made from the local water.
  • Don't eat fresh fruit or vegetables that can't be peeled before eating.
  • Don't eat or drink milk, cheese or dairy products that haven't been pasteurised (a process that involves heating to destroy unwanted micro-organisms).
  • Don't eat or drink anything sold by street vendors (except drinks from properly sealed cans or bottles).

Read more information on staying healthy abroad.

How long should I stay at home?

If you or your child has dysentery, you or they should stay at home until at least 48 hours after having the last episode of diarrhoea.

If you have dysentery and you work in a food or healthcare environment, you must tell your employer about your condition. Your local environmental health officer may be in touch with you to find out how you became ill.

Page last reviewed: 26/03/2013

Next review due: 26/03/2015