Typhoid Fever | میعادی بخاریا ٹائیفائیڈ

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Typhoid Fever


Typhoid fever is an infection caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi. Other related Salmonella types (paratyphi) can also cause the typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is also referred as salmonella food poisoning.

Typhoid bacteria. Source: US, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Typhoid bacteria. Source: US, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Typhoid is a serious infection, which can affect many organs of the body. In case proper treatment is not quickly initiated, it can result in serious complications or even death.

Most patients recover well when proper treatment is provided on time.

The infection spreads through contaminated water and food that contain salmonella bacterium. The typhoid bacterium can survive for many days in contaminated water and food.

Prevention is the best strategy to stay healthy

To prevent water-borne infections (infections spread from contaminated water) in most cities of Pakistan, it is essential to boil water before drinking. By boiling water (continue heating for at least 5 minutes after boiling), typhoid bacterium as well as many other disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites are killed.

Domestic water filtration systems used in Pakistan are not very reliable in removing or inactivating the disease-causing organisms.  Bacteria are much smaller, a well-maintained Reverse Osmosis filtration system can remove the bacteria, if used appropriately.

Avoid using ice made from raw water. Make sure ice cubes are made from boiled water

Also, it is important to eat food prepared in hygienic conditions; do not keep food outside refrigerator for longer periods in summer. Avoid buying ready to eat food items from street hawkers/ vendors or road-side restaurant, especially raw (uncooked) foods like sliced /cut fruits and juices, salads as it may be washed with unclean water, yogurt, chutneys and other uncooked dressings as in their preparation most likely un-boiled tap water is used.

The patient starts to experience (feel) the symptom about 7 – 14 days after the bacterium has entered in the body.  In most occasions, symptoms may include:

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  • High fever (reaching up to 39 - 40 (102-104)
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Headache, generalized body aches, weakness

The above symptoms may also be caused due to some other infection or illness. 

It is better to see a Doctor to ensure early diagnosis.   In serious cases, hospitalization may be required and usually injectable antibiotics (drip) are administered. 

Typhoid fever can be prevented by vaccination.  Typhoid fever vaccine can prevent typhoid infection caused by specific salmonella type.

The infection spread through contaminated water and food that contain salmonella bacterium.   Typhoid fever can occur as an outbreak affecting many people living in the same area or have consumed contaminated food from the same outlet or restaurant.   The patient excretes the salmonella bacterium in the stool and sometimes in urine.

Young children and teenagers are more at risk. This is because that the immune system of young children is not fully developed (body natural defense mechanism) whereas teenagers mostly drink water and eat outside from street vendors.

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Poor hygienic conditions, improper sanitation (open or leaking sewage system) and unsafe drinking water supplies contaminated with sewage water is the biggest reason of the spread of this infection in Pakistan and other South Asian countries. It can also be caused from contaminated food (especially food prepared in poor hygienic conditions and not cooked properly).

Water-borne infections are very much avoidable, if safe supply of drinking water is made possible for all residents. Western countries have been able to reduce the burden of infectious disease more than 90% only because of one reason, which is safe supply of drinking water for their residents.

By taking necessary precautions (avoid raw food from unreliable sources) and boil water before can greatly minimize the water-borne infections, reduce unnecessary consumption of antibiotics and huge cost-saving for public.

Typhoid fever occurs throughout the year in Pakistan, however most cases are reported in summer season.

The Doctor will ask many questions to diagnose the illness.

If the doctor suspects typhoid fever, a blood, urine and stool test will be carried out for confirmation.

The Salmonella bacterium enters the digestive tract and intestine through the contaminated water and food. Afterwards, the bacterium enters the blood stream and later it multiplies in gallbladder, liver and lymphatic system.

Upon confirmation of Typhoid infection, prompt antibiotic treatment is required. In mild to moderate cases, 7- 14 days antibiotic treatment is required. The patient can be treated at home. When typhoid is diagnosed at early stage, most patients start to feel better after 4-6 days of antibiotic therapy. Even the patient starts to feel better after 3-4 days of antibiotic treatment; however it is very important to complete the antibiotic course as prescribed by the doctor assuring clearance of bacteria from the body.pills-1582469_640

Take plenty of rest, drink water regularly and eat light food.

Some strains of Salmonella have developed resistance against some antibiotics which were previously effective in treating typhoid infection. Urine/ blood culture test is carried out to determine the specific antibiotic which would be effective in treating the infection.

The symptoms can get worse if the patient is not treated immediately. Complications may include internal bleeding and widespread infection involving other organs. However, in most cases patients attain full recovery.

Prevention is the best strategy to stay healthy.

Since drinking water in schools, colleges and universities is not always reliable, it is safer for teenagers to carry their own water bottle and lunch box from home to avoid these types of avoidable illnesses.

Typhoid fever can be prevented by vaccination.  Typhoid fever vaccine can prevent typhoid infection caused by specific salmonella type.

Typhoid vaccine is recommended for people who are planning to travel Pakistan and other South Asian countries where it is endemic. Typhoid vaccine is not 100% effective, therefore it is recommended to take caution in eating and drinking.

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