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Typhoid fever is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi and is transmitted through the ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the feces or urine of infected people.
Insects feeding on feces might transfer the bacteria to humans owing to 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 often develop 1 to 3 weeks following exposure, and may be mild or severe, including 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 antibiotics is widespread. Healthy carriers should be excluded from handling food.
Good sanitation and hygiene are critical measures to prevent typhoid.
- Typhoid does not affect animals and therefore transmission occurs only from human to human.
- Typhoid can only spread in conditions where human feces or urine can come into contact with food or drinking water.
- Hygienic food preparation practices and hand washing are the cornerstones of typhoid prevention.
- In most cases, typhoid fever is not fatal.
- Prompt treatment with antibiotics limits the case fatality rate to about 1%.
- If left untreated, typhoid fever may persist for three weeks to a month.
- Resistance to common antibiotics is widespread.
- Typhoid resistant to common antibiotics is known as multidrug-resistant typhoid (MDR typhoid).
- Ciprofloxacin resistance is a common problem, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
- Azithromycin is a new drug for drug-resistant typhoid.
- Typhoid vaccine taken every three years is the best preventive approach.