Typhoid fever, usually simply known as typhoid, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. It is passed between people by food or water contaminated by feces (poop) of someone who is infected with the disease. Typhoid fever is a serious condition and causes a number of symptoms if left untreated. Initially it causes fever, fatigue and cough, with occasional bloody noses and/or abdominal pain. The symptoms of this condition worsen to include delirium, rash and heavier cough, along with possible diarrhea or constipation and swelling of the liver and spleen. If diarrhea is present it can lead to life threatening dehydration. If it remains untreated the third week of the condition can include intestinal bleeding or perforation, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or heart, and further delirium. If left untreated it can lead to death and of the 16-33 million cases each year about 215,000 are fatal. It is estimated that death occurs in 10-30% of untreated cases. Let’s find out how typhoid fever is treated.
How is typhoid fever treated?
The most important first line treatment for this disease is oral rehydration therapy to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea. The patient can be given antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The most common antibiotics used against this disease are fluoroquinolone and ciprofloxacin. Other antibiotics were once also effective against this disease, but certain strains of the bacteria that are becoming resistant to the most commonly used drugs.
Maintaining good hygiene, especially in countries where typhoid fever is common, is extremely important in preventing the disease. There are also two vaccines that are available for the disease and are routinely given to those traveling to countries where typhoid is common. These vaccines are about 50-80% effective against the disease.
Did you know?
Mary Mallon, known as Typhoid Mary, was a well known carrier of the disease without herself showing any symptoms. She immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1884 and is believed to have infected more than 51 people (3 of these died) while working as a cook in New York. Some of these infectious outbreaks was traced back to her and she was quarantined twice during her life (1907-1910 and 1915-1938) to ensure the safety of the public. After being released in 1910 she promised not to work as a cook, but she changed her name and continued to work as a cook anyway. She was caught again and kept in isolation until her death in 1938.