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Mayor Wu announced a heat emergency in the City of Boston through Wednesday, July 17. Cooling centers will be open at 14 BCYF community centers Monday through Wednesday, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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Enteric Diseases and Sexual Health

This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about enteric diseases.

Enteric diseases affect your stomach or intestines. They cause symptoms like diarrhea, fever, or stomach cramps. A variety of germs can cause enteric diseases.

The basics

What are enteric diseases?

These germs typically enter the body through the mouth. People acquire the germs from contaminated food and water, contact with animals or their environments, or from the feces (poop) of an infected person. Often, the germs spread to food, water when an infected person doesn't wash their hands after using the bathroom. But, it is also possible to get these infections through sexual contact.

How can sexual contact expose you to enteric diseases?

Any type of sexual contact that may put you in contact with feces, even if it is not visible, is a risk for infection with one or more of these germs. Anal sex and oral-genital contact have some risk, but oral stimulation may be especially risky. 


How can you reduce your risk of exposure to these germs during sexual contact?

  • Avoid sexual activity with people who have diarrhea or who recently had diarrhea. Some germs can still pass on 2-3 weeks after symptoms clear. Ask your partner(s) before sex if they have been ill recently
  • Reduce contact with fecal matter during sex
  • Wash your genitals, anus, and hands before and after sexual activity
  • Use barriers such as condoms or dental dams during oral sex and oral-anal sex. Use gloves (preferably latex) during anal fingering or fisting
  • Use condoms or dental dams during anal and vaginal sex to help reduce the risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections

What else can you do to reduce your risk of exposure to these germs through other types of exposure?

To avoid catching these germs through any type of exposure:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including:
    • Before eating
    • Before cooking
    • After changing a diaper
    • After using the bathroom
    • After helping to clean another person who has defecated (pooped)
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming at lakes, rivers or oceans. Some common germs can live for long periods of time in salt water. Click here to learn more about recreational water illnesses
  • When traveling internationally, follow food and water precautions.
  • Everyone, especially food workers and health care workers, should remember to wash hands with water and soap frequently

Avoiding enteric germs could also be important for your work life. Workers that handle food or medications who catch these germs cannot work until they have completely recovered and all symptoms have resolved. In general, under public health regulations, food handlers must stay out of work for 72 hours after their symptoms have resolved. However, exclusion guidelines may differ based on the type of disease. They may even need to have their feces (poop) tested to show they are no longer infected. This could mean up to several weeks of being excluded from work. 

To learn more about specific enteric diseases, go to the links below:




Hepatitis A



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