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Oral-anal ‘rim’ gay sex sparks gut infection outbreak

Health experts are warning gay and bisexual men in the UK are at risk of Shigella, a bacterial infection that can make you feel like you're 'dying'

Oral-anal sex, known as ‘rimming’, has sparked a gut infection outbreak in the UK.

Health experts are warning gay and bisexual men are at high risk of contracting Shigella, a bacterial infection that can lead to ongoing frequent diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fevers.

Normally, Shigella is only contracted when travelling to foreign countries. But in gay and bisexual men, it is being spread through oral contact with feces or via unwashed hands.

In 2009, there were only 43 cases among men in the UK that did not have a link to travel. Just four years later, reports have surged to 224 cases with more cases expected.

‘Shigella is on the rise, so it is vital gay and bisexual men know about it and how to avoid getting it,’ Dr Gwenda Hughes said, head of STI surveillance at Public Health England.

Posters and leaflets informing men about the infection are being distributed to nightclubs, saunas and bars and other gay venues, as well as sexual health clinics.

Gay and bisexual men are being urged to avoid oral-faecal contact and to wash their hands thoroughly and shower after sex.

One gay man, who acquired the infection after rimming, said getting Shigella was the ‘lowest point’ in his life.

‘I suffered uncontrollable bloody diarrhoea with severe stomach cramps. The severity of the symptoms and dehydration headaches made me think I was going to die,’ he said.

If you suffer from symptoms that you feel might be Shigella, go to a GP or clinic, mention Shigella, and request a stool sample test.

The infection is treatable with antibiotics.

Cary James, head of health improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, suggested not all cases of the infection were being reported.

‘Men with symptoms who haven’t heard of Shigella before might assume it’s a particularly bad case of food poisoning,’ he said. ‘However, the infection can be dangerous, even more so if you’re already living with HIV or hep C.’

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