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eWellness: Typhoid fever

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Dr KK Aggarwal    29 December 2017

Typhoid fever is caused by a bacteria Salmonella typhi and is transmitted through the ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the feces or urine of infected people.

Flying insects feeding on feces may occasionally transfer the bacteria through poor hygiene habits and public sanitation conditions. Though the cases occur all through the year, the number is higher during the summer and rainy seasons. Symptoms usually develop 1 to 3 weeks after exposure, and may be mild or severe. They include high fever, malaise, headache, constipation or diarrhea and enlarged spleen and liver. A healthy carrier state may follow acute illness. Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics. However, resistance to common antimicrobials is widespread. Healthy carriers should be excluded from handling food. Sanitation and hygiene are the critical measures that can be taken to prevent typhoid.

  1. Typhoid does not affect animals and therefore transmission occurs only from human to human.
  2. Typhoid can only spread in environments where human feces or urine are able to come into contact with food or drinking water.
  3. Careful food preparation and washing of hands are crucial to preventing typhoid.
  4. Typhoid fever in most cases is not fatal.
  5. Prompt treatment of the disease with antibiotics reduces the case-fatality rate to approximately 1%.
  6. When untreated, typhoid fever may persist for three weeks to a month.
  7. Resistance to common antibiotics is now common.
  8. Typhoid that is resistant to common antibiotics is known as multidrug-resistant typhoid (MDR typhoid).
  9. Ciprofloxacin resistance is an increasing problem, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
  10. Typhoid vaccine taken every three years is the best preventive approach.

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