What is typhoid fever?
Typhoid fever or enteric fever is a digestive tract infection in which there is fever, headache, and abdominal pain or discomfort. It is very common in developing countries like India.
What are the causes and risk factors?
Typhoid fever is caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi which is transmitted through contaminated water or food (feco-oral or urine-oral route).
Risk factors include:
-Travelling to areas where typhoid fever is a common disease.
-Being in a profession where contamination with bacteria is likely. Like those working in laboratories.
-Coming in close contact with a person suffering from typhoid.
-Drinking/ eating contaminated water or food.
How will you know if you have typhoid fever?
Signs and symptoms develop gradually over the period of 10-14 days after exposure to the bacteria.
-Signs and symptoms include an irregular fever that can go up to 104.9 ˚F (40.5 ˚C), headache, pain in abdomen, tiredness, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea, skin rash.
How is typhoid fever diagnosed?
-Your doctor will do a physical examination and carry out some tests.
Physical findings in early stages include abdominal tenderness, enlarged spleen and liver, enlarged lymph nodes, and development of a rash (also known as rose spots because of their appearance).
Blood tests: Typhidot test IgM and IgG antibodies, blood culture to test for Salmonella typhi.
Stool and urine analysis
Bone marrow culture: it is the most sensitive test, but it is rarely required except in patients who have already received antibiotics and not getting any better.
Widal antigen test: this test can be done, but there is a longer waiting phase of about 10 days till results can be seen, it is time-consuming and could give false positive results.
What is the treatment for typhoid fever?
-Antibiotics are the only effective treatment option for typhoid fever.
-Due to increased resistance to ciprofloxacin the new drugs of choice are azithromycin and ceftriaxone.
-In some cases, chloramphenicol, co-trimoxazole and amoxicillin may also be effective.
-Fluid intake should be increased to prevent dehydration.
What are the complications of typhoid fever?
If not treated and sometimes even after treatment, there can be serious complications due to typhoid like pneumonia, meningitis (inflammation of meninges of brain), infection in bones (osteomyelitis), intestinal perforation and intestinal haemorrhage.
A doctor needs to be consulted if a person starts developing the symptoms few days after travelling to a place where typhoid is prevalent.
How can typhoid fever be prevented?
-Typhoid fever can be prevented by improving sanitation facilities and drinking clean drinking water.
-Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using restrooms, before eating or cooking food.
-Maintaining optimum personal hygiene is the key to preventing this disease.
-Travellers should not drink untreated water; avoid adding ice to their drinks and should not eat ice creams or milk products or street foods that are a rich source of the infection.
-Vaccines are available that give partial protection. Vaccines usually are reserved for those who may be exposed to the disease or are travelling to areas where typhoid fever is common.