Typhoid fever isn’t a common disease in the United States. To most of us, it’s an obscure illness we’re aware of but aren’t sure what it looks like. Is it truly a fever?
However, because in specific situations during a long-term disaster, it might spread rapidly, we must be able to detect it. And correct early therapy dramatically lowers your chance of dying from it.
Where Is Typhoid Fever Most Common?
Typhoid is undoubtedly still a major worldwide health issue. In fact, over 20 million individuals contract it each year, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. India has one of the worst typhoid rates in the world.
The only things preventing typhoid fever from spreading in places like the United States are our excellent sanitation and relatively roomy settings. Even so, around 400 individuals get it here every year, almost all of them infected abroad and then returned.
If a typhoid sufferer were to bring the illness back before an extended-term calamity, we could have an epidemic.
Typhoid fever can be managed with a few basic steps. Many people who survive typhoid fever are left with traces of the bacteria in their stool, which may last for weeks or months after they recover. In some cases, symptoms can be so mild that individuals never realize they had typhoid disease.
It all begins with Typhoid Mary.
Mary Mallon was a cook for a family renting a summer house in New York City in 1906. Several members of the family became ill with typhoid fever. Concerned that he needed to find the source and eliminate it if he wanted to rent the property again, the owner began investigating. According to reports, everything seemed fine, so he started digging into Mary’s background.
Mary discovered that several of her prior employers had typhoid fever after she became the cook. Mary claimed she had never had typhoid fever before.
Mary was brought in for stool samples after apparently much resistance. Salmonella typhi, the typhoid fever bacteria, were discovered in them.
Mary was a carrier of the disease without exhibiting any symptoms. This is not unusual in infectious illnesses. Hepatitis, for example, is one such condition.
She apparently continued working as a cook for life, despite being banned from doing so.
How can you not become like Mary? Take your antibiotics until they’re finished, not just until symptoms go away if you get typhoid fever. Some individuals, on the other hand, continue to be carriers and must have a more complex treatment to try to eliminate it. Of course, a stool sample culture (if accessible) will confirm that it’s gone.
Typhoid fever, while associated with a fever, is not the same thing as typhus. Typhoid fever, or enteric fever, is an illness that causes high fevers and other symptoms. The term “enteric” refers to something having to do with the intestines; accordingly, “enteric” means “related to the intestine.” Typhoid fever can lead to serious complications in numerous organs throughout your body—in particular your stomach and spleen—according on whether you have been vaccinated.
Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, which is present in human feces. Typhoid fever is transmitted through feces in this manner. Assume an infected person does not wash their hands after using the toilet and leaves germs on a doorknob. Other people come into contact with the doorknob and touch their face; germs enter via their mouth, triggering an outbreak.
Without antibiotics and assistance, such as fluids to prevent dehydration, the mortality rate is around 0.2 percent. Without them, it can be as high as 20%.
When to be Concerned About Typhoid Fever
Typhoid fever has a variety of symptoms, many of which are quite general. They might be signs of a number of illnesses. So, if you suspect you have typhoid fever, go to the hospital as soon as possible and submit feces samples for examination.
If you don’t have a bacterial culture, you might assume someone has typhoid fever if both of these things are true:
- The person is sweating profusely, has an aching stomach, and has a rash with numerous red spots on the trunk.
- You believe the illness is spreading (someone else has it and there are crowded circumstances, poor water sanitation, etc.).
The initial indicators of a viral infection may begin a week or two after being exposed and can include:
- Fever of 103–104 F orally and the headache and muscle aches that go with it
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Constipation (more common in adults) or diarrhea (more common in children)
- No appetite
- Dry cough
- Nonraised red dots that don’t always appear (if you get them, they’re usually only a few and go away in a few days)
How Does Typhoid Fever Progress?
If you start taking the correct antibiotics soon after the onset of symptoms, you will usually begin to recover within a few days and feel considerably better in about a week or two.
Things get messier if you don’t have antibiotics.
Typhoid fever symptoms become more particular as the disease progresses, making it easier to determine whether someone has typhoid fever.
During the second week, you’ve lost a significant amount of weight while your abdomen has grown distended (bloated).
During this second week, a slow pulse is another distinguishing feature. Your pulse rate will typically increase when you have a fever and discomfort. Typhoid disease can cause your pulse to be as low as 60 or even lower.
By the third week, things start to get ugly. People often enter a condition known as typhoid madness—they become delirious (agitated, seeing things, irrational) —or lie motionless with their eyes half-closed. Organs can begin to fail; the heart can be inflamed. There may be intestinal bleeding or even whole bowel holes (a very serious sign).
If you’ve made it this far, your body should be in the process of healing now. It takes many months to recover from a broken back.
How Do You Treat Typhoid Fever?
If you can’t get expert care, your doctor will test antibiotics on a sample of your stool to find which one works best. Currently, one of the fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, etc.) in the class is frequently used. However, in a growing number of instances, the bacteria are resistant to it.
If you do not have access to expert care but have antibiotics, ciprofloxacin is an excellent option. Azithromycin would be a close second choice.
If you don’t have antibiotics, the only option is to give comfort with fluids.
How Can You Avoid Typhoid Fever?
To avoid typhoid fever, you must follow the same procedure as any other disease spread via fecal-oral contact:
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Only drink bottled or properly disinfected water.
- If you don’t peel fresh fruit or vegetables yourself with a clean knife, don’t eat them raw.
- Remove any food from the oven as soon as it has been fully cooked, still steaming. (That’s your best chance of destroying any germs.)
A vaccine is available a few weeks or more before going to a high-risk location.
What about you? Do you know someone who has had typhoid fever before?
Photo credit: Victoria_Borodinova