Typhoid Fever: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Typhoid Fever: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that may become life-threatening if not treated on time. In many cases, typhoid fever affects many people in developing nations. However, the disease may occur anywhere, even in developed countries, such as the US.

Contaminated food and water or close contact with an infected person cause typhoid fever. A patient with typhoid is likely to experience headaches, high fever, constipation, stomach pain or diarrhoea. 

Many patients with typhoid fever are likely to feel better within a few days after proper antibiotic treatment. However, a small number of people may die out of complications. Therefore, it is important to know the typhoid fever reason and its cure. 

Causes of Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is majorly caused by bacteria known as Salmonella Typhi. It is not the same bacteria that lead to salmonella food poisoning. But both are related to each other. 

It can even occur due to Salmonella Paratyphi, a related bacterium leading to severe illness. The bacteria often deposit in food or water by a human carrier and further spread to other humans in the surrounding area. 

How the Infection Spreads

The Salmonella Typhi is usually found in the stools of the infected person after they’ve been to a toilet. If they do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet, they can easily contaminate the food or water they touch. If anyone eats the contaminated food, they are likely to be infected with the disease. 

The Salmonella Typhi, however, is less likely to be passed through an infected person’s urine. But still, they need to wash their hands thoroughly after peeing; otherwise, there can be the risk of contamination.

Other ways to contact typhoid fever include:

  • Eating seafood from the contaminated water source
  • Using a toilet that’s contaminated by bacteria and touching the mouth without washing hands
  • Eating raw vegetables that were fertilised with contaminated human waste
  • Having anal or oral sex with the carrier of Salmonella Typhi bacteria
  • Having contaminated milk products

Carriers of Typhoid

Around 1 in 20 people who have survived typhoid fever without treatment are the carriers of this infection. It means that the bacteria continue to live in the body of the carrier and can easily spread via stool or urine. However, sometimes the carrier may not have any visible symptoms of this condition. 

How the Bacteria Affects the Body

After having contaminated food or water, Salmonella Typhi bacteria will move down to the digestive system and begin to grow. This will trigger high temperature or fever, constipation, diarrhoea and stomach pain in the patient.

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If not treated, the bacteria can even get into one’s bloodstream and spread to other body parts. It can further lead to serious complications like internal bleeding or bowel splitting open. 

Symptoms of Typhoid Fever

Early stages of typhoid include fever, abdominal pain and illness. If the condition gets worse, the symptoms may include: 

  • Headaches
  • High fever (around 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Red spots on chest or abdomen
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weakness

Other typhoid fever’s symptoms include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Difficulty in paying attention
  • Severe fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations 

How Is Typhoid Fever Diagnosed?

Typhoid is diagnosed by a simple stool test or blood test. The test identifies the existence of Salmonella Typhi in stool and blood samples. When being diagnosed, a patient even needs to tell a doctor about the areas they travelled to, as those regions could be contaminated with the bacteria. 

How Is Typhoid Fever Treated?

Generally, antibiotics are prescribed to patients with typhoid fever. These medications are used for killing bacteria that lead to infection. There are various types of antibiotics used to treat typhoid fever. 

In most cases, typhoid is treated with cotrimoxazole (Bactrim), ampicillin or chloramphenicol. Your doctor may even prescribe you fluoroquinolones, azithromycin or cephalosporins, including Cefepime.

The typhoid vaccine is likely to be effective around 50 to 80%. Some popular vaccines are: 

  • Inactivated Typhoid Vaccine: It is given via a one-dose injection. This is not given to kids younger than the age of 2. It takes around two weeks to be effective and given every two years.
  • Live Typhoid Vaccine: It is not given to patients under the age of 6. This is an oral vaccine that’s administered in four doses after two days gap. It will take a week after the last dose to see its effect. The booster dose must be given every five years. 

Conclusion

If not treated on time, typhoid fever could become a serious or life-threatening disease. Worldwide, there are around 200,000 deaths per year due to typhoid-related conditions. 

With proper treatment, many people can begin to improve their health in three to five days. Almost every patient that receives the treatment is likely to recover from this illness. Consult your doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms of typhoid.

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