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Everything You Need to Know About Typhoid

A blood or urine sample can be conclusive in diagnosing the presence of Salmonella typhi. Post diagnosis, antibiotic therapy is usually the way forward. However, consult your doctor for the best advice.

  • 24 Jul 2019
  • 2 min read

Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused by the Salmonella typhi bacterium. It spreads through the use of contaminated food and water

Typhoid fever – caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria -- is an acute bacterial infection that usually spreads through the use of contaminated food and unclean water. Besides very high fever, typhoid can also lead to abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea and headache.

Generally, a proper course of treatment can allay the symptoms, ease bodily discomfort and resolve the condition entirely. However, it might result in severe, life-threatening complications – if timely medical intervention isn’t provided.

Besides Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, incidences of typhoid are widespread in India as well.

What are the common symptoms?

Generally, it takes a week or two (after the infection) for symptoms to surface. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Pain in the stomach
  • High fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Significant loss in appetite
  • Prolonged bouts of headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation (in some cases)
  • Confusion

While symptoms can vary in severity, the more serious ones are usually rare. However, severe complications include intestinal bleeding and perforations. This might result in sepsis, a fatal infection of the bloodstream. In this case, symptoms include vomiting, nausea and severe pain in the abdomen.

Pneumonia, pancreatitis, kidney-related infections, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles), endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart, generally involving the valves), meningitis (inflammation of the brain) and hallucination are some of the critical symptoms that warrant immediate hospitalization.

How is typhoid diagnosed?

Upon entering the biliary system and the bowel’s lymphatic tissues, the Salmonella typhi bacteria multiply thick and fast. Once the bacteria make their way into the intestinal tract, they can be diagnosed with the help of stool samples. If test results don’t prove to be adequately conclusive, one’s urine and blood samples will then be considered for complete diagnosis.

What are the possible causes and risk factors?

The Salmonella typhi (S. typhi) bacterium causes typhoid. Primary way of transmission being the oral-faecal route, it generally spreads through the usage of contaminated food or water. However, you can also contract this disease, should you come in direct contact with an already-infected person.

Additionally, some people may recover, yet carry the Salmonella typhi bacteria on them. These are called ‘carriers’ and can end up infecting other people.

Typhoid remains a severe threat worldwide, affecting as many as 26 million people (or more) every year.

You can be at increased risks of typhoid, should you:

  • Travel to or work in countries where this bacterial infection is widespread
  • Work in close proximity to somebody who has already been afflicted with the disease
  • Eat food or drink water that is already contaminated

Also read:

How can typhoid be prevented?

Irrespective of whether you are planning on travelling to areas with increased incidences of typhoid or not, it would hold you in good stead if you abide by the following measures:

- Watch what you drink

  • Avoid drinking water from any open source, be it a tap or a well
  • Avoid popsicles and ice-cubes, unless you are sure about the source of water
  • Use bottled water as much as possible
  • Boil non-bottled water before drinking
  • Hot coffee, tea and pasteurized milk are safe to drink

- Be careful of what you eat

  • Avoid food that is sold by vendors on the streets
  • Avoid raw produce, unless you can peel them
  • Abstain from eating raw fish or meat (as it can be a part of a country’s eating habits). Make sure that the food is thoroughly cooked and served piping hot
  • Stay away from salads made of raw ingredients

- Good hygiene is of paramount importance

  • Wash your hands properly before ingesting any food
  • Avoid coming in close contact with people who have already been infected

Can typhoid vaccine help?

While vaccination is not completely effective (considering efficacy reduces over a period of time), your doctor might recommend one should you:

  • Live typhoid vaccine

Usually not for children below the age of 6 years, this type of vaccine is administered orally in four doses, every alternate day. Your doctor might suggest a booster dose, every five years.

  • Inactivated typhoid vaccine

This is typically injected in a single dose, and it might take two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. Your doctor might recommend a booster dose, every two years.

Can typhoid vaccine help?

A blood or urine test can provide conclusive evidence of the presence of Salmonella typhi. Post diagnosis, antibiotic therapy is the optimal course of treatment. More commonly prescribed antibiotics include ciprofloxacin, azithromycin and ceftriaxone. However, prolonged usage of these drugs can lead to side effects as well as antibiotic resistance in the long run.

What is the outlook?

Should medical intervention not be provided on time, typhoid might lead to severe – often fatal – complications. However, with prompt medical aid, most recover completely within a week or two.

In conclusion, let fact be established – medical costs in India are on the rise and can take little time to hit the roof. Treatment-related costs for typhoid, in a reputed healthcare facility, can well run into thousands. This can be a financial strain for you, in case you haven’t had your finances planned out beforehand.

During such an emergency, a comprehensive health insurance policy can be of significance, by securing adequate and timely finances. Further, you can get round-the-clock access to cashless medical care and benefit from a fast claims-settlement process.

Related Article:

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Protect Yourself against the Deathly Dengue Virus 

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