Typhoid Fever

What is Typhoid Fever?

This refers to a bacterial infection caused by exposure to a type of Salmonella bacteria called Salmonella typhi. This is spread by food and water which has been contaminated by the feces of patients who are currently infected or are chronic carriers of the bacteria. It is usually found in parts of the world where handwashing is less frequent and water is more likely to be contaminated with human waste.

Common symptoms include prolonged high fever, abdominal pain, headache, and rash. Symptoms can last for up to 4 weeks and the infection can be fatal if untreated. People can also become chronic carriers of typhoid and continue to spread the infection to other people.

Treatment involves antibiotic therapy.

How does it occur?

Salmonella bacteria can be found in milk and dairy products, eggs, poultry, and processed meats. You can spread the disease after handling food or utensils contaminated with the bacteria. Carriers of salmonellosis and household pets such as dogs, cats, and turtles can also spread the disease.

You will get sick with this particular food poisoning 8 to 48 hours after eating contaminated food.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • diarrhea (which may contain blood), lasting 3 to 5 days
  • fever, chills and malaise
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal cramps

How is it treated?

Treatment involves controlling your symptoms. If you are undernourished, severely ill, very young, or have sickle cell disease, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Otherwise, antibiotics are not routinely prescribed because they may prolong the carrier state.

Treatment for blood poisoning also includes treatment of any skin sores.

How long will the effects last?

Salmonellosis usually lasts 3 to 5 days. You can continue to carry the disease after you've been infected, whether or not you have symptoms. However, this isn't usually a permanent condition.

How can I take care of myself?

It is particularly important to follow the treatment plan your provider prescribes. Stay warm. Ask your provider if you can take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to control your fever. (Anyone under age 21 who may have a viral illness should not take aspirin because aspirin increases the risk of Reye's syndrome.) Keep a daily record of your temperature.

For diarrhea, let your bowel rest by drinking only clear liquids such as water, juice, weak tea, and bouillon. You may also suck on Popsicles. It is important to drink often so you don't get dehydrated. Suck on ice chips (made from bottled water if traveling abroad) if you feel too nauseated to drink anything. Do not eat solid foods because they can cause cramps.

How can I help prevent Typhoid Fever?

Have proper immunizations against typhoid fever before traveling outside this country or if a member of your household carries the disease. Immunization is recommended for international travelers to endemic areas, especially if travel likely will involve exposure to unsafe food and water or close contact with rural areas and indigenous populations. Immunization is not a legal requirement for entry into any country. Typhoid risk is greatest for those traveling to developing countries (especially Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America) who have prolonged exposure to potentially contaminated food and drink.All travelers need to be aware that typhoid vaccination is not a substitute for carefully selecting food and drink, since no vaccine is 100% effective.

Ask you physician or nurse practitioner about drugs for preventing and treating traveler's diarrhea. In addition, when traveling in other countries, you may want to:

  • Drink only bottled water and liquids. Avoid tap water and ice.
  • Avoid eating unpeeled fruits. Eat fruits you peel yourself.
  • Avoid eating uncooked vegetables (such as raw leafy vegetables) and other foods stored or served at room temperature.
  • Ask how food is being prepared.Avoid poultry, meat, and eggs, and other foods that have not been refrigerated or cooked thoroughly.
  • Choose recently prepared foods, served hot or chilled.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and very warm water.
  • Be especially careful when washing utensils, foods, and linens.
  • Practice scrupulous cleanliness in food preparation and handling. If you are uncertain about sanitary practices, select foods that are cooked and served hot.
  • Eat pasteurized dairy products.
  • Boil all milk and water used for infant feeding. Avoid raw shellfish.