Typhoid Fever FAQs: Your Essential Guide
What is Typhoid Fever?
The disease is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi (S. Typhi). It is usually caused by contaminated food and water. Once the S. Typhi bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can rapidly multiply and spread, causing Typhoid fever.
Factors such as poor management of sewage and untreated water can increase the burden of typhoid in the world, while rapidly growing resistance to antibiotic treatment is making it easier for this disease to spread.
Who Does Typhoid Fever Affect?
Typhoid fever is commonly found in the rural areas of developing countries due to the lack of modern sanitation. Countries such as South and Southeast Asia, South and Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean are some of the most affected regions. Travelers visiting India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh are at risk of typhoid.
How Common is Typhoid Fever?
Around 11 to 21 million people are affected by it annually, and according to the WHO, around 110,000 people die from it each year.
What’s a Long-term Carrier of Typhoid Fever?
A long-term or chronic carrier is someone who continues to carry the virus in their system even after recovering and no longer experiencing the symptoms. This is why doctors recommend that you get tested for S.typhi even after you start to feel better.
What’s the Difference Between Typhoid and Typhus?
Although the names and symptoms of typhoid and typhus are similar, these are different illnesses caused by other bacteria. Typhoid is caused by S. Typhi, spread through contaminated food and water, whilst rickettsia or orientia bacteria causes typhus, spread through infected lice, fleas, or mites,
What are the Symptoms of Typhoid Fever?
While they usually take a week or more after the infection to show up, some of the most common symptoms of typhoid include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
While complications are rare, serious symptoms of typhoid include intestinal bleeding or perforation, leading to sepsis. If treated incorrectly, sepsis can become a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream.
What Causes Typhoid Fever?
Typhoid is caused by a bacterium called Salmonella Typhi. It is different from the strain that causes food poisoning in individuals. S. Typhi lives in infected people’s gut (intestines) and can contaminate food and water, usually through their excreta. One of the most prominent causes of typhoid is when an individual with the disease touches other food, drinks, or surfaces without washing their hands after going to the bathroom.
How Does Typhoid Fever Spread?
The primary method of transmitting S. Typhi is the oral-faecal route, generally spreading in contaminated water or food. In some cases, it can also be spread through direct contact with a person who is diagnosed with typhoid or by washing fruits and vegetables with contaminated water.
What are the Stages of Typhoid?
They usually develop gradually over four distinct stages. Noticing these signs early can help you get prompt treatment with antibiotics that stop the disease from progressing.
- Stage 1: In this stage, the symptoms of typhoid slowly start developing. It is usually 14 days after you may have come in contact with the bacteria S. Typhi. One of the first symptoms is fever, which gradually increases, sometimes up to 104° C. This is also known as stepwise, as the fever goes up in steps, which occurs when the bacteria moves into your bloodstream.
- Stage 2: During the second week of the fever, the bacteria multiply in the Peyer’s patch, which is the part of your immune system that helps identify potentially harmful invaders. Here, the other symptoms, like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or constipation, start to appear. You may also notice small pink dots known as rose spots on your skin.
- Stage 3: If you do not undergo typhoid treatment, you may experience severe damage with complications like internal bleeding, sepsis, and encephalitis (brain inflammation).
- Stage 4: Most people start to display signs of recovering from typhoid during this stage. The fever subsides, and the bacteria usually live in the gallbladder without causing symptoms. If the bacteria continues to stay in your system, then you are prone to spreading the infection to others.
How is Typhoid Fever Diagnosed?
Your symptoms, lab tests, and travel history are the first indicators of typhoid. Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs before recommending specific diagnostic tests for the disease.
Ensure you inform your doctor about places you have recently traveled as well as if you have been in contact with someone who suffers from typhoid. Without this information, your doctor may not know they must test for typhoid.
What Tests Can Be Done to Diagnose Typhoid Fever?
If your doctor suspects you may have typhoid, they will usually ask for body fluid or tissue tests that check for signs of S. Typhi in the body.
The samples may include:
- Blood: The technician will use a needle to draw a small amount of blood from your arm.
- Stool: You will need to collect a stool sample in the sterile container according to the instructions provided by your doctor.
- Urine: Similar to the stool sample, you must collect your urine sample in a sterile container.
- Skin: A small sample may be taken by numbing your skin and scraping it with a small razor or scalpel.
- Bone Marrow: Rarely a special needle is used to get a sample of your bone marrow inside the bone after numbing your skin.
- Lung: You may also need to take an X-ray to look for changes caused by typhoid.
What is the Treatment for Typhoid Fever?
Typhoid fever treatment includes antibiotics. As a few newer strains of the bacteria can survive antibiotic typhoid treatment, your doctor will prescribe a mix of antibiotics based on the type of typhoid you may have and where you started to notice symptoms.
In severe cases or with other complications, you may need additional typhoid treatment, which may require you to be admitted to a hospital to undergo the treatment.
What Medications Are Used to Treat Typhoid Fever?
Antibiotic typhoid treatment includes:
- Ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, or ofloxacin
- Ceftriaxone, cefotaxime, or cefixime
In severe cases, a steroid dexamethasone may be used to treat typhoid.
If the strain of S. Typhi you are infected with is resistant to antibiotics, i.e. they are no longer destroyed by the traditional typhoid fever medication, the treatment options are limited. While some drugs still work on these strains, they are ineffective when the cases of drug resistance are extreme, e.g., XDR typhoid.
Drug resistance is one of the main reasons why individuals should get vaccinated for typhoid. Many health officials are concerned that typhoid may become incurable if the medicines currently available stop working.
How do I Take Care of Myself with Typhoid Fever?
If you are showing symptoms of typhoid, the first step is to visit your healthcare provider. Ensure you finish all the medicines the doctor prescribes and ask them if it is safe to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen for pain or fever.
How can I Reduce my Risk of Typhoid Fever?
Vaccination is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of typhoid fever. Washing your hands and safe food handling is essential to limit the spread of typhoid.
How Long Does Typhoid Fever Last?
If you are undergoing antibiotic treatment for typhoid, you should feel better in a few days. Complete recovery will take up to 10 days. If left untreated or treatment starts late, it can last three weeks or more.
Is Typhoid Fever Fatal?
If not treated promptly, typhoid fever could be fatal. However, with modern medicine, most people who contract the disease experience a full recovery. Of the millions diagnosed with typhoid, only 1-2% of cases are fatal.
To summarise, typhoid is caused by the bacterium S. Typhi. Some of the main symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, and vomiting. It is spread through contaminated food and water, and one can even get affected through contact with individuals who have typhoid. To avoid spreading it to others, you need to visit your doctor, who may prescribe various diagnostic tests. Preventive medical tests and regular health checkups with reputed diagnostic centers like Metropolis Labs are recommended. To know more about the services they offer, check out their entire list of diagnostic services.