What is Typhoid Fever
Typhoid Fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. Typhoid Fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 21.5 million persons each year. Typhoid Fever can be prevented and can usually be treated with antibiotics. Salmonella Typhi lives only in humans. Persons with Typhoid Fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed Salmonella Typhi in their feces (stool). About 5 percent of people infected with S. Typhi become lifelong carriers, releasing the germ in their stool for years, which can spread the disease.
Transmission of Typhoid Fever
Persons with Typhoid Fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed Salmonella Typhi in their feces (stool). You can get Typhoid Fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding Salmonella Typhi or if sewage contaminated with Salmonella Typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Therefore, Typhoid Fever is more common in areas of the world where hand washing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage. Once Salmonella Typhi Bacteria are eaten or drunk, they multiply and spread into the bloodstream. The body reacts with fever and other signs and symptoms.
Precautions to avoid Typhoid Fever
Two basic actions can protect you from typhoid fever, avoid risky foods/ drinks and get vaccinated against typhoid fever.
- If you drink water, buy it bottled or bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute before you drink it. Bottled carbonated water is safer than un-carbonated water.
- Ask for drinks without ice unless the ice is made from bottled or boiled water. Avoid popsicles and flavored ices that may have been made with contaminated water.
- Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and that are still hot and steaming.
- Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled. Vegetables like lettuce are easily contaminated and are very hard to wash well.
- When you eat raw fruit or vegetables that can be peeled, peel them yourself.
- Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors. It is difficult for food to be kept clean on the street.
Signs and Symptoms of Typhoid Fever
Symptoms usually develop 1–3 weeks after exposure, and may be mild or severe. They include
- High fever
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Rose-colored spots on the chest
- Enlarged spleen and liver
Tests for Typhoid Fever
- A Complete Blood Count (CBC) will show a high number of white blood cells.
- A blood culture during the first week of the Typhoid Fever can show S. Typhi Bacteria.
Other tests that can help diagnose this condition include:
- ELISA urine test to look for the bacteria that cause Typhoid Fever
- Fluorescent antibody study to look for substances that are specific to Typhoid Bacteria
- Platelet count (platelet count will be low)
- Stool culture
Treatment of Typhoid Fever
Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. There are increasing rates of antibiotic resistance throughout the world, so your health care provider will check current recommendations before choosing an antibiotic. Three commonly prescribed antibiotics are ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and ciprofloxacin. Persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days, and deaths rarely occur. However, persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20% may die from complications of the infection.
Complications of Typhoid Fever