What is Typhoid?
Typhoid, also known as Typhoid fever is an infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi.
Another bacterium salmonella enterica, causes non-typhoid salmonellosis.
It requires prompt treatment otherwise it can become fatal and spread across the body.
It is rare in developed countries but is pretty common in developing countries.
Still, these infectious diseases affects more than 300 people a year in the United States.
Consuming contaminated food and drinking water cause this infection.
It is also highly contagious so it can spread from contact.
Moreover, an infected person can pass Salmonella typhi in stools.
It spreads in places where handwashing is not prevalent.
Hence, if someone passes infected stools and do not wash their hands and then eats and drinks water, that food becomes contaminated.
If you consume food that is contaminated after coming in contact with infected stools or urine, you will get typhoid fever.
This infection is more common in children than in adults.
Children’s immune systems are developing so they can be weak.
However, they have mild symptoms.
Antibiotic treatment is effective against it.
People usually get vaccines before traveling to a place with improper sanitation.
Symptoms of Typhoid
Typhoid symptoms do not appear immediately. You will notice them one to three weeks after exposure.
The two main symptoms are fever and rash.
The early symptoms include:
- fever gradually increasing to 204.9 degrees Fahrenheit
- dry cough
- body aches and headache
Further signs and symptoms include weakness, sweating, losing appetite leading to weight loss, diarrhea and stomach swelling and pain.
In the later stages of the illness, you may become disturbed and restless.
You may also enter the state where you lie motionless with half eyes closed.
There is also a risk of it becoming fatal in the later stage.
However, if you do not get treated timely, you can develop further complications.
If you are getting antibiotic treatments then you may not develop such lethal complications.
However, there is still a chance of it spreading throughout your body leading to such issues.
The complications include intestinal bleeding and holes. This complication arises in the third week.
A hole develops in the small intestine. Through this hole the contents of the small intestine leak into the stomach.
This causes stomach pain, vomiting and nausea, but most dangerously, bloodstream infection sepsis.
This whole complication is lethal and needs immediate treatment.
This is the most common complication however, there can be others too that are less common.
These include myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle), blood vessel infection, pneumonia, psychiatric issues like hallucinations, kidney and bladder infection.
Furthermore, it can also cause meningitis, pancreatitis and endocarditis.
Typhoid is treatable with a prompt response. People in developed nations recover quickly with proper treatment.
However, leaving it untreated will inevitably cause complications and even lead to death.
More on its treatment later.
Causes of Typhoid
Typhoid is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium.
It enters the human body through the mouth, lives in the intestine for 1 to 3 weeks and flows into the bloodstream.
From there it can infect the tissues and other organs of the body.
The body’s immune system is not that effective against this bacteria because it lives within the host cells.
One of the main ways of spread is the fecal-oral transmission route.
The bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium or S.typhi is passed on with stool and urine.
If someone infected does not wash their hands properly after having a bowel movement or passing urine, they can spread it to the surfaces and foods.
Therefore, if someone has this infection and they did not wash and sanitized their hands properly furthermore, they also handled your food, you are likely to get infected.
It also spreads through contaminated drinking water and by being in close contact with a typhoid patient.
You can also get it from carriers.
These are the people who have recovered from typhoid after an antibiotic course but still carry the bacteria.
These are chronic carriers who may not have any visible symptoms but still pass the bacteria in feces and urine.
Thus, they can still infect people.
Moreover, it can also spread from using a contaminated washroom and by eating seafood that came from water that was contaminated with infected stool.
Furthermore, milk products are also contaminated and eating raw vegetables that were fertilized using human stools will also carry the bacteria.
Risks to Look Out For:
Typhoid affects around 27 million people worldwide yearly.
It is a prevalent and common disease in areas with less sanitation.
It is more common in South Asia, Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
Children are more likely to get the disease because their immunity is still developing.
However, they only get mild symptoms, unlike adults who can have complications.
You are more at risk in developing countries but in developed countries, you can also get it from people who have traveled.
If you work or travel to a place with higher typhoid cases you are susceptible to catch typhoid.
Moreover, if you work as a Microbiologist dealing with Salmonella typhi bacteria, you can get infected.
Furthermore, if you drank water contaminated by this bacteria and came into close contact with someone who has been recently infected and has even recovered, you can still get typhoid.
Your doctor will ask for your travel history and check your symptoms.
Typhoid is diagnosed by identifying the bacteria in your blood or tissue culture.
A sample of either blood, feces, bone marrow or urine is taken.
This sample develops into a culture as it is placed in a medium that encourages the growth of S.typhi bacteria.
Later this culture is placed under a microscope.
It then detects the bacteria which is accurately found in the bone marrow culture.
However, you may still need a few tests to detect the bacteria.
Additionally, your doctor may also check for typhoid antibodies in your blood against the bacteria and look for typhoid DNA in your blood sample.
If you have typhoid, your family members need to get tested too.
They may have already developed the infection and they should get treated timely.
Typhoid treatment involves antibiotic therapy.
It is a bacterial infection so antibiotics are effective. You should take an antibiotic course for 7 to 14 days.
Doctors prescribe Ciprofloxacin to adults. However, this antibiotic is not suitable for pregnant women and some bacteria have become resistant to it.
Patients get Azithromycin if they cannot take Ciprofloxacin or are resistant to it.
Ceftriaxone is a typhoid injection antibiotic. It is injected into people who are more serious.
Moreover, children get this injection because they cannot swallow a pill.
However, complete your course timely.
Complete your course and take your medicines timely otherwise the bacteria will become resistant to the antibiotic.
These antibiotics can lead to side effects.
In fact, long-term use can make them resistant too.
The antibiotic chloramphenicol is no longer used. This is due to high resistance and typhoid relapse.
Many antibiotics in developing countries are now resistant.
Frequent use and incomplete course cause such antibiotic resistance.
You will require surgery if there is a hole in your intestines or internal bleeding.
However, these situations are very rare.
You may get hospitalized if severe symptoms persist.
You get antibiotic injections and fluids through an intravenous drip.
Your condition will improve in a matter of days. However, you will be discharged only till you are cured.
There is no typhoid vaccine available yet as it is treated with antibiotics.
Lifestyle changes and Home Remedies
Drink plenty of water. Fever and diarrhea may dehydrate you. Hence, consume a lot of fluids.
In case of severe dehydration, you may require fluids through an IV.
You should not skip your meals. Eat small portions but keep eating regularly.
Moreover, you should regularly wash your hands to avoid any spread to your family.
You should avoid going to work or school until three tests confirm that the bacteria is finally gone.
Chronic carriers do exist therefore, children under the age 0f 5, the elderly and people dealing with food are advised to return only after their tests confirm the absence of the bacteria.
Precautions and Prevention
Use safe water, eat healthy thoroughly cooked food, keep your hands sanitized and maintain good hygiene.
However, many people are deprived of these necessities in the developing world.
Therefore, vaccines are a more full-proof way to prevent typhoid.
You will get a vaccine if you plan to travel to developing countries.
One is an injection. You get it a week before travel.
The other is a capsule. You take four doses, with a one day gap.
However, these vaccines do not stay effective for long.
Repeat immunization is required as their effect goes away.
Therefore you can prevent typhoid by taking precautions.
Wash hands regularly with warm water and soap. Wash them especially before a meal and after using a toilet.
Carry a hand sanitizer at all times. Use a hand sanitizer when you cannot access water.
Avoid raw fruits and vegetables. Peel all raw fruits and vegetables yourself.
The seller can wash raw fruits and vegetables with contaminated water. Therefore, it is best to avoid them.
Moreover, try to only eat warm, thoroughly cooked foods.
Drink only bottled water and even brush your teeth from it.
Keep your mouth closed during the shower. Do not add ice made from local water.
You can also help prevent the spread of typhoid if you are already infected.
Wash your hands regularly for 30 seconds with warm water and soap.
Complete your antibiotic course diligently.
Do not handle and prepare food. If you work with food, you will have to ask for leave till you are no longer contagious.
Take a 28-day course of antibiotics if you are a chronic carrier.
Typhoid is treatable and preventable.
However, you should treat it timely.
This will allow you to avoid any serious complications.