Amebiasis (Amebic Dysentery)

Amebiasis is an infection in the intestines, though it can sometimes spread to other organs caused by the parasite, Entamoeba histolytica.

You can become infected by drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with this parasite. You can also become sick by touching stool or objects contaminated by stool, and then touching your mouth with unwashed hands. Sexual practices that result in hand or mouth contact with stool can also spread the infection.

Amebiasis is more likely to occur in:

  • People who have traveled to countries with poor food or water hygiene
  • People who live around poor sanitary conditions
  • Men who have sex with men


If you are exposed to this parasite, you can experience mild or severe symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Most people do not become seriously ill.

Symptoms can begin a few days to a few months after exposure. However, symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after exposure. Common symptoms include nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain and cramping.

Amebic dysentery is a severe form of amebiasis that can cause frequent stools with blood or mucus, stomach pain and fever. Rarely, the parasite will spread and cause a more serious infection, such as a liver abscess.

Once infected, you can carry and shed the parasite for years, often without symptoms.


  • Practice good hand hygiene: Wash hands with soap and warm water before handling food, and after toilet use or contact with dirty diapers.
  • Avoid water that may be contaminated: Do not drink water directly from streams, lakes, springs or swimming pools. If you must drink from these sources, first boil the water (for one minute or more), or use a filter with a pore size of one micron or smaller.
  • Avoid food that may be contaminated: Thoroughly wash uncooked fruits and vegetables.
  • Take extra care when traveling: When traveling to countries with poor water treatment or food sanitation, avoid raw fruits and vegetables, unboiled tap water, ice and food from street vendors.
  • Protect yourself and others: Do not swim in pools or recreational water during giardiasis and for two weeks after the diarrhea stops. Sexual practices that result in hand or mouth contact with stool (anal sex, fingering, rimming) can spread infection. Wash your butt, penis and any sex toys with soap and water before and after these activities. A dental dam during rimming also provides protection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Health care providers can detect amebiasis through stool tests and prescribe medication for treatment.

Returning to Work or School

Since the parasite is found in the stool, people should stay home from work, school or child care if they cannot control their bowel movements. That includes infants, young children and people with certain types of disabilities.

Food handlers, health care workers and children in day care must get approval from the Health Department before they can return to work or school. This involves follow-up stool testing.

Additional Resources

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