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Typhoid Fever – Signs & Symptoms, Treatment, Precautions, Complications

Typhoid fever (also known as enteric fever) is a life-threatening infection caused by the Salmonella Typhi bacteria. It commonly occurs in developing and rural areas. Industrial and developed areas are comparatively lesser prone to Typhoid fever. The disease remains a serious health threat till date, especially for children between 2 and 5 years of age. Note that the disease can also affect children under the age of two.

As per the World Health Organization’s 2018 report, every year approximately 11-20 million are affected by Typhoid and somewhere between 1,28,000 and 1,61,000 people die due to the same. The Salmonella Typhi bacteria live only in human beings. They enter and then gradually multiply in the bloodstream. Apart from the bloodstream, they also reside in the intestinal tract.

Does Typhoid Spread? How does Typhoid Spread?

Yes, Typhoid is contagious. Typhoid fever is primarily caused by consumption of contaminated food and water and poor sanitation. Consuming food or water that is contaminated with feces (containing the Salmonella Typhi bacteria) can get you to catch typhoid. Occasionally, close contact with people who are infected with Typhoid can lead to the spread of the disease – you may catch typhoid due to contact with someone who does not wash their hands after using the washroom.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Typhoid?

Typhoid fever is commonly characterized by symptoms such as Рhigh body temperature, headache, abdominal pain (or swollen abdomen), stomach pain, muscle aches, diarrhea, constipation, etc. Additionally, it can also be characterized by weakness/fatigue, loss of appetite, rashes or dry cough. Typhoid starts secretively. As a patient, you cannot see any signs or symptoms during the initial stages of Typhoid. After 2-4 weeks of inception, the signs and symptoms begin to be visible.

Is Typhoid Curable?

Yes, Typhoid fever can be cured. When diagnosed and treated at an early stage, effective antibiotics help the majority of patients in improving their condition. However, some victims tend to lose their lives owing late diagnosis of the disease or due to severe complications. And if no treatment is taken, the condition can cause the patient to either become delirious or get into the Typhoid State. Typhoid state refers to being in a motionless and extremely exhausted state with half eyes closed. Thus, it gets important to trace the condition at an early stage in order to execute a successful treatment.

Take the Medicines Completely

Completing the entire course of the antibiotics prescribed by your doctor is crucial. Even if the symptoms seem to be subsiding and you feel better, do not stop the medicines midway. Typhoid is a classic example of recurring bacteria. If you stop the antibiotics in between, there is a high chance that typhoid will come back.

Typhoid Can Come Back Even Further

In some cases, even if you complete the entire dose of medicines, take proper care and heal completely, the signs and symptoms of typhoid might recur – typically after a couple of weeks. This makes it a very stealthy disease that needs careful observation and medical assistance throughout.

How to Prevent Typhoid?

Can we prevent typhoid? Absolutely yes, typhoid is preventable. There are two major vaccinations available to avoid Typhoid fever. But these vaccinations are not 100% effective and are mostly reserved for people who live at/are traveling to areas that have a high risk of typhoid. Also, since vaccinations are partially effective, below is a list of few prevention tips for typhoid disease.

WHO Response

In December 2017, WHO prequalified the first conjugate vaccine for typhoid. This new vaccine has longer-lasting immunity than older vaccines, requires fewer doses and can be given to children from the age of 6 months.

This vaccine will be prioritized for countries with the highest burden of typhoid disease. This will help reduce the frequent use of antibiotics for typhoid treatment, which will slow the increase in antibiotic resistance in Salmonella Typhi.

1. Wash Hands Frequently: You might have great hygiene but not everybody around you would. Some people may use the toilet and not wash their hands. Some others may be carrying extremely dangerous micro-organisms in their hands. Just one handshake with them or touching things touched by them can transfer those microbes onto you instantly. Thus, make it a habit to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Also, train your children to get into the same habit. Always use soap, handwash with running water. Alternatively, always carry a sanitizer handy with you – in case you are traveling and do not have soaps/handwashes available. Sanitizers are also safe to use by children.

2. Clean Water: Always use clean, sanitized water for both consumption and usage. Whether for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, use boiled (and then slightly cooled) water to avoid any chance(s) of water contamination. Teach and remind your kids not to drink water from the public – bottles, fountain water, ocean, lake, river, beach, or ice cubes. Also, do not swallow water from the shower or bath.

3. Cook Well: Cook every food that you eat, really well. Avoid raw food, junk/roadside/stale/undercooked/refined foods. Educate your children about the risks that tag along with unhealthy foods. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.

4. Breastfeed Your Baby: Babies that are purely breastfed are noted to have the least chances of catching a typhoid infection. Thus it is highly recommended.

5. Eat Right: Peel the skin/fruit yourself just before eating. Do not consume the peel. Do not eat already cut fruits and vegetables that vendors sell on the roadside since they are susceptible to bacteria. Do not drink ice in the water. Avoid eating food that is cooled down. Hot food is the safest always.

6. Check with your doctor: Visit your doctor for him to check for any findings of Salmonella Typhi bacteria in your stool. Do the same in case you are a typhoid survivor in order to make sure that you are completely off it.

Written by MedPlus