A Shigella infection (shigellosis) can be severe and cause life-long illness or death. Compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of income, cost of care and other damages can be significant. Because of the complexity of a Shigella lawsuit, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible after a diagnosis.
Young children, the elderly, and other people with weak immune systems–including cancer patients and people with AIDS–are at higher risk of severe illness. Children less than two years old who have a severe infection accompanied by fever may experience seizures. Many of our clients have been older adults and young children. Children do have the the right to sue for compensation, generally with one or both parents filing the lawsuit on behalf of their child.
Shigella and Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
Although extremely rare, Shigella can also lead to a condition called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is most often associated with E. coli, but infection with this pathogen can also lead to this severe and dangerous complication. Hemolytic anemia–a weakening the blood’s effectiveness–and acute renal failure are the most serious complications of HUS.
Shigella Food Poisoning and Reactive Arthritis
A very small percentage (about three percent) of these cases that result from infection with a specific strain, S. flexneri, develop reactive arthritis after the infection has passed. The condition, characterized by joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination, may last for months or years. Unfortunately, reactive arthritis can also lead to difficult-to-treat chronic arthritis.
In rare cases, Shigellosis can lead to death. Some strains, rare in the U.S., may have a rate of fatality as high as fifteen percent. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Shigellosis accounts for less than 10 percent of the food-borne illness cases in the U.S. However, the USDA cautions that certain strains of Shigella may have a 10-15 percent fatality rate. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures show only 18,000 cases of Shigellosis are reported in the U.S. each year, because many mild cases go unreported or undetected, the CDC estimates that as many as 350,000 may occur annually.
List of Complications
Below is a list (not exhaustive) of some of the complications of shigellosis:
- Coma. The toxins associated with a Shigella infection, Shiga toxins, can work to compromise the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a situation where the brain can be “poisoned” by the toxins. This can result in damage to the central nervous system and lethargy, disorientation, seizures, stroke, paralysis and/or coma.
- Dehydration. Severe dehydration from diarrhea is the primary complication. This can cause shock and death. The high-risk groups for severe dehydration are children under 2 and adults that are chronically ill.
- Encephalopathy. Encephalopathy is a general medical term that refers to a disease of the brain that can lead to seizures, coma and death.
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome. As stated above, shigellosis can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to hemolytic anemia (a low red blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (a low platelet count) and acute kidney failure (renal failure).
- Hypoglycemia. Shigella infections can cause metabolic disturbances in the body (disturbances of the body’s chemical processes). One such instance of this is hypoglycemia, a lower-than-normal level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Hypoglycemia can cause seizures and, if not treated, death.
- Hyponatremia. Another instance of Shigella-associated metabolic disturbance is hyponatremia, a disturbance of the salt in the blood that can lead to dangerously-low concentration of sodium in the plasma. Severe hyponatremia can result in cerebral edema (swelling of the brain). One symptom of hyponatremia is seizures.
- Intestinal perforation. This is rare in the developed countries and generally only happens to malnourished children under the age of two.
- Peritonitis. If an infection causes toxic megacolon (paralyzed colon) and it is untreated, the colon may rupture, causing peritonitis.
- Pneumonia. This is rare and often fatal.
- Proctitis. This is the inflammation of the lining of the rectum.
- Rectal prolapse. The strain put on the body during difficult bowel movements may result in rectal prolapse, the rectal mucous membrane or lining moving down or through the rectum.
- Reactive Arthritis. As stated above, in rare cases a person may develop reactive arthritis, which causes joint pain and inflammation.
- Seizure: When someone with an infection runs a high fever, there is a risk of seizures. Metabolic disturbances (disturbance of the body’s chemical processes), including hyponatremia, hypocalcemia and hypoglycemia, also may contribute to seizure activity in people with this kind of food poisoning. These seizures are generally brief but can last over 5 minutes. Seizures may be accompanied by vomiting, problems with sleeping and/or extreme sleepiness. Always contact a doctor immediately if someone under your care has a seizure.
- Septicemia (sepsis). Septicemia is referred to as blood poisoning, inflammation of the whole body via microbes in the blood. It can lead to organ dysfunction (including multiple organ dysfunction syndrome), septic shock and death.
- Shock. Severe dehydration can lead to shock and death. Anyone is at risk, but children under 2 and chronically ill adults are particularly susceptible.
- Stroke. Shiga toxins can work to compromise the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a situation where the brain can be “poisoned” by the toxins. This can result in damage to the central nervous system and lethargy, disorientation, seizures, stroke, paralysis and/or coma.