A HIGHLY infectious vomiting bug has been reported in schools across the UK, with parents being warned to know the general signs and symptoms.

Shigellosis causes chronic diarrhoea and sickness, so parents should know how to spot the signs. The NHS has provided the following information:

What are the symptoms of shigellosis?

Symptoms include watery diarrhoea (which is sometimes bloody), stomach ache, fever and sometimes vomiting.

It can take from one to three days for the symptoms to develop after being infected and symptoms usually last for three to seven days.

What is shigellosis and how do you get it?

Shigellosis is an infection caused by shigella bacteria.

Shigella cause gastroenteritis - an infection of the bowels - with dysentery.

How is shigella infection treated?

Most people who have shigella infection will get better by themselves. Antibiotics are only used if symptoms do not clear up on their own.

While you still have symptoms it is important to drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost through vomiting and diarrhoea and to rest as much as possible.

Who can it affect?

Shigella infection can affect all age groups. However, the young, the elderly and those who have an immune system which is not working properly, may be at greater risk of developing a more severe illness.

How is it spread?

Shigella infection is spread from person to person through poor hygiene - for example, by not washing hands properly after using the toilet. In the UK, most cases are spread from person to person within families who live together and in other areas where people are in close contact, such as schools, nurseries and day centres.

Shigella infection can also be spread through food where affected individuals with poor hygiene practices contaminate food by touching it with dirty hands.

This infection can also be spread by water in countries with poor sanitation systems where sewage systems allow untreated or partially treated sewage to contaminate drinking water.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by a hospital laboratory from a stool sample.

How can I prevent it spreading?

Good personal hygiene is essential.

Always wash and dry your hands:

• after using the toilet

• after changing a baby’s nappy

• before preparing food

• after handling raw food

• after contact with pets and other animals

• after contact with contaminated bedding or clothing.

Keep contact with an infected person to a minimum especially while they have symptoms.

At home, an infected person should keep a hand towel that only they use.

Wash all clothes, bedding and towels from an infected person in the washing machine at the hottest cycle possible for the type of clothing to be washed.

Clean toilet seats, toilet bowls, flush handles, taps and wash hand basins regularly with hot soapy water.