Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal. It is caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi, which is related to the bacteria that cause salmonella food poisoning. Typhoid fever is highly contagious. An infected person can pass the bacteria out of their body in their stools or, less commonly, in their urine. If someone else eats food or drinks water that has been contaminated with a small amount of infected faeces or urine, they can become infected with the bacteria and develop typhoid fever.
Because of the way the infection is spread, typhoid fever is most common in parts of the world that have poor levels of sanitation and limited access to clean water. Children and younger adults are thought to be most at risk of developing typhoid fever. This may be because their immune system is still developing. Typhoid fever is uncommon in the UK, with an estimated 500 cases occurring each year. Most of these people are thought to have developed the infection while visiting relatives in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
Signs and Symptoms of Typhoid Fever
Common symptoms of typhoid fever include a high temperature that can reach 39-40°C, stomach pain, headache, diarrhoea. If the condition is not treated, the symptoms continue to get worse over the following weeks and the risk of developing potentially fatal complications increases. Complications caused by typhoid fever usually only occur in people who have not been treated with appropriate antibiotics, or who have had delayed treatment. Possible complications include internal bleeding, or a section of the digestive system or bowel splitting open and causing widespread infection.
Several antibiotics are effective for the treatment of typhoid fever. Chloramphenicol was the original drug of choice for many years. Because of rare serious side effects, chloramphenicol has been replaced by other effective antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics is guided by identifying the geographic region where the infection was contracted. If relapses occur, patients are retreated with antibiotics. Those who become chronically ill can be treated with prolonged antibiotics. Often, removal of the gallbladder, the site of chronic infection, will provide a cure. For those traveling to high-risk areas, vaccines are now available.
Vaccination is recommended for anyone who is planning to travel to parts of the world where the typhoid is widespread, particularly if you are planning to live or work closely with local people. However, as neither vaccine offers 100 percent protection, it is also important to follow some precautions when traveling. For example, you should only drink bottled or boiled water and avoid foods that could potentially be contaminated.
Read out and be aware of Typhoid and protect yourself.