Typhoid fever is a common bacterial infection and also known as enteric fever.
Typhoid fever can either be a minor or major infection. When it is a major infection, the infected person is at high risk of dying. However, when diagnosed early, the infection is treatable. The disease affects approximately 21 million people worldwide annually, and approximately 200,000 people die from typhoid fever.
The infection is common in developing countries, and it is life-threatening, more so when it affects children. In developed countries, like the United States, typhoid fever is rare. However, when there are cases of typhoid fever in the developed countries, it’s mostly brought by people who had initially traveled. Hence, infecting other people.
Causes of Typhoid
The bacterium Salmonella typhi causes typhoid fever. The infection can also be associated with Salmonella paratyphi bacterium that causes minor illnesses. The bacteria find a habitat in the human blood and intestinal tract. People contract the disease through two routes:
Typhoid fever is commonly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and beverages. The bacterium leaves the body through feces. People get the infection when they eat food that has been prepared with an infected person who handled his feces and failed to clean his hands properly. In some developing countries, untreated sewages are released in rivers, and they contaminate water, thus, spreading the bacterium.
In some cases, people contract typhoid but remain asymptomatic, and for a long time, they remain carriers of the bacteria despite receiving treatment. Such people have no symptoms of the disease, but they can spread it. Typhoid carriers shed the bacteria in their feces, and people can get the infection when they have direct contact with them.
Signs and Symptoms of Typhoid
After exposure to typhoid, it might take one to three weeks for the symptoms to develop. The major symptom is high fever and abdominal pain. In the early stages of the infection, the signs and symptoms include:
- Fever goes to about 40 degrees Celsius
- Weakness of joints
- Rashes on the abdomen and chest
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen stomach
- Muscle ache
When treated, the signs will disappear. However, when left untreated, more severe signs and symptoms develop, and they include:
- Bloody stools
- Severe headache
- Lack of concentration
- Perforation of the stomach
In some people, signs and symptoms may recur two weeks after the fever has eased. The developed stage of typhoid is life-threatening. Perforation of the stomach walls might affect the intestine walls and cause infections to the bloodstream. In such cases, the patient might get other secondary infections like pancreatitis, kidney infection, paranoid psychosis, and delirium.
Typhoid fever is treatable, but before administration of medication, the disease has to be diagnosed. The doctors diagnose the disease in the lab, where the patient's stool sample or blood sample is tested. In the blood sample, a random strip test that detects the bacterium is carried out, whereas, in the stool sample, the bacterium is detected under the microscope. In the United States, typhoid fever may not be the first thing to consider testing when someone is unwell because it is uncommon. However, when the patient has a history of travel, then typhoid may be suspected.
Typhoid is treated with antibiotics. They eliminate the bacteria present in the blood and intestinal tract. The doctor selects the antibiotic depending on the strain of infection. In addition, in severe cases, antibiotics are accompanied by fluid and electrolyte fill-ins. The patient is also advised to drink a lot of water in cases where they had diarrhea.
Typhoid is a fatal infection, and if someone has any of its symptoms, it is best to see the doctor immediately. Prevention is always better than cure. Therefore, people are advised to maintain good hygiene to avoid the contraction of typhoid. People should wash their hands with soap and water after visiting the toilet. They should wash fruits before consuming, and properly wash vegetables before cooking. Additionally, drinking water should also be treated.