Girona, Spain
Thousands of UK families are planning to visit Spain with school holidays just around the corner Photo: AFP / Josep LAGO

Tourists have reportedly received yet another warning about an issue in Spain amid the ongoing peak summer travel season.

Spain is experiencing an outbreak of a serious stomach illness that is spreading across several holiday hotspots of the country. Shigella sonnei infections, also known as shigellosis, have developed in the US and some European countries including Spain, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, reported Mirror.

The deadly stomach bug is breaking out in clusters and has become resistant to multiple drugs. The main symptoms of the disease include fever, severe diarrhoea, and stomach pain.

60 people infected in Spain

At least 60 people have fallen ill across Spain due to this infection and this is happening ahead of thousands of families from the UK heading to the country as the school vacations are just around the corner, according to Liverpool Echo.

Since April this year, over 300 cases of this highly contagious illness have been reported, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Most of these reports have come from the US - which has seen 106 cases - followed by a cluster of 60 people falling ill in Spain and another 50 in Ireland. Germany so far has seen 33 cases, Belgium 26, Netherlands 21, and Denmark 13. While most of the cases were recorded between 2022−2023, some date back to 2016.

"All strains in these seven clusters show resistance to first and second-line antibiotics," the ECDC noted.

The health organisation has shown concern over some of the strains' resistance to azithromycin, "as this limits the options for effective treatment." Transmission within the seven clusters has "largely, but not exclusively, [been seen] among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men," the ECDC added.

How can shigellosis spread?

Shigellosis is a gastrointestinal infection caused by Shigella bacteria. One of the major warnings that holidaymakers heading to Spain have received is that this nasty stomach bug is highly transmissible.

A person can get infected if they:

  • Have faeces on their hands and touch their mouth.
  • Put objects in their mouth that are contaminated with the infected faeces.
  • Consume food and water which is contaminated with the faeces from an infected person.

The nasty stomach bug can also spread through oral and anal sex, while it can also be transmitted from you to your close contacts if you don't maintain good personal hygiene. A person can also catch it from what they are eating or drinking.

All the symptoms of this disease are quite unpleasant. According to the NHS, these include:

  • Feeling and being sick
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhoea, which may be severe, watery and/or contain blood or slime
  • High temperature
  • Stomach pain and/or cramping
  • Dehydration, particularly if a person is unable to drink enough fluids

In most cases, the symptoms should only last between five and seven days, meaning the person won't need medical treatment. However, if the symptoms last longer and the person continues to be unwell, they should immediately seek medical help.

If a traveller is returning to the UK with shigellosis symptoms, then it is best for them to:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink enough fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated
  • Avoid the use of over the counter medications which prevent diarrhoea as these can make symptoms worse
  • Visit a doctor if a person has a high temperature and feels very unwell

If a person is diagnosed with shigellosis, one of the things they should definitely avoid is sexual activity, for at least a week after symptoms completely disappear.

Meanwhile, anal and oral sex should be avoided for even longer - between four and six weeks, according to the ECDC, as Shigella can linger in your excrements for that amount of time.