Sweden has become the latest country to report Shigella infections in people who had been to Cape Verde.
Shigella patients have also been found in the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. From November 2021 to October 2022, 55 shigellosis cases were recorded.
From mid-November, an increase in Shigella infections with travel to Cape Verde was reported, said the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten).
So far, 30 cases have been identified. Analysis of 11 bacterial isolates found nine are Shigella sonnei and two are Shigella boydii. Infections with other pathogens, such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia, have also been noted.
Infection with Shigella linked to trips to Cape Verde has been a recurring problem, according to Folkhälsomyndigheten. Combined with the presence of various Shigella species and other pathogens, this suggests contamination via food or water.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are monitoring the situation.
Sick people in the UK want answers
Holiday Claims Bureau and Hudgell Solicitors in the UK have seen complaints of illness and poor hygiene standards from holidaymakers.
Holiday Claims Bureau is representing a number of people with confirmed Shigella infection from hotels in Cape Verde. The firm also has clients who tested positive for Salmonella and E. coli following stays at the same hotels.
One of these is Jake Slater, from Leeds, who went away in December 2021. Slater started to suffer stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea while on holiday and these symptoms continued on his return home. Tests confirmed Slater had contracted Shigella and he was given antibiotics. Another client went on holiday to the same hotel in October 2022 and contracted Shigella.
More than 500 people have asked lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate illnesses linked to trips to Cape Verde.
Holidaymakers stayed at seven hotels in the country. People have tested positive for bacterial pathogens including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, and E. coli. All had been on holidays booked through tour operator TUI.
Jatinder Paul, the senior associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said if the causes are identified, then lessons must be learned to ensure no other holidaymakers suffer illness.
“That so many should have been affected at these hotels, in the same region under the same tour operator, has left the people we are representing with a lot of questions over what happened to them this summer and we’re determined to help them find the answers,” he said.
“Bacterial illnesses such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, and E. coli are serious and should never be underestimated. They can cause long-term health issues for the most vulnerable, and even death. The fact some still remain ill several months after their return is very concerning.”
Shigella bacteria cause an infection called shigellosis. Most infected people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually begin a couple of days after infection and last a week. Travelers may be exposed to the bacteria through contaminated food, water, or surfaces. Those with a Shigella infection can spread it to others for several weeks. People should wash their hands with soap and water before preparing and eating food to help control the pathogen.
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