A global bacterial disease, typhoid fever is an acute illness caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water. The main cause of typhoid fever is Salmonella typhi.
What is typhoid fever?
Typhoid fever is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by Salmonella typhi. Typhoid fever is transmitted through ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the excreta of others infected. Children and young adults between ages 5 and 19 are at high risk of contracting this ailment. Initial typhoid fever symptoms include headache, high fever, abdominal pain and either constipation or diarrhea. The fever spreads quickly throughout the body and attacks different organs. Without the right treatment, it can create serious complications and even be fatal.
As per reports, an estimated 161,000 deaths occurred due to typhoid fever in 2013. Scientists and researchers claim typhoid fever is rarely found in industrialized countries. However, it is a grave concern in the developing world, especially for children. Vaccines are available to treat typhoid fever, but they’re only partially effective.
Symptoms of typhoid fever
Typhoid fever symptoms usually emerge one or two weeks after a person becomes infected. Children who develop typhoid fever suddenly become sick; symptoms are more likely to develop gradually. In general, the incubation period is usually one to two weeks and the duration of the illness is about four to six weeks. During this time, these are the typhoid fever symptoms patients experience:
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Aches and pains
- Intestinal bleeding (after two to three weeks of the disease)
- Fever (often up to 1040F)
- Lethargy (if typhoid fever goes untreated)
Many patients suffering from typhoid fever develop chest congestion. Additionally, abdominal pain and discomfort are common, and a temperature remains a constant. A patient’s condition improves in the third and fourth week if there are no complications. Approximately, 10% of patients have recurrent symptoms after one or two weeks of improvement. Relapses of typhoid fever symptoms are common in individuals treated with antibiotics.
Treatment of typhoid fever
Your doctor will diagnose the condition based on your symptoms, and medical and travel history. But confirmation of typhoid fever comes when Salmonella typhi is found in your blood or other body fluid or tissue. To treat the condition, you may be prescribed antibiotics because it is the only effective treatment for typhoid fever symptoms. Your doctor may recommend the following antibiotics:
- Ciprofloxacin This drug is prescribed to all except pregnant women.
- Ceftriaxone This antibiotic is an alternative for pregnant women and children who are not supposed to take Ciprofloxacin.
Prior to the administration of antibiotics, the fatality rate of typhoid fever was 20%; now mortality rate has been reduced to 1-2%. Reports have suggested, with appropriate antibiotic treatment, patients improve within one to two days and recover within seven to 10 days.
Prevention of typhoid fever
In many developing countries, problems like the absence of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and medical care remain insurmountable. Which is why experts believe vaccination is the best way to control typhoid fever in high-risk nations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations that include a typhoid vaccine for those traveling to areas where risk of typhoid fever is high. According to the World Health Organization, two typhoid vaccines available internationally are safe and effective. They are:
- An injectable polysaccharide vaccine based on the purified Vi antigen for children under age 2.
- A live attenuated oral Ty21a vaccine available in capsules for those above age 5.
Apart from taking the typhoid vaccine, when traveling to high-risk areas like Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, these safety guidelines are recommended:
- Wash your hands frequently with hot and soapy water as this is the best way to control infection. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for situations where water isn’t available.
- Avoid drinking untreated water. Drink only bottled water because it is safer than non-carbonated bottled water.
Typhoid fever is extremely contagious. To protect yourself, you need to be extra cautious. Whether you have been vaccinated for typhoid or not, it is important for you to follow the safety guidelines recommended when traveling to countries where typhoid fever can be contracted.