Typhoid fever is a medical condition that is linked with a fever that occurs due to a bacterial infection that is triggered by a bacteria known as the Salmonella typhi bacteria. It could also be triggered by a similar bacteria called Salmonella paratyphi, which causes an illness that is less severe than the former. The bacteria is highly contagious and is commonly found in water deposits or in foods. It requires a human carrier to spread across and normally transmits rapidly to people in the area.
The incidences of typhoid fever have reduced drastically since what was seen in the early 1990's. Today, the number of typhoid fever cases reported in the United States are less than 400 annually. This improvement has primarily been seen due to better sanitary facilities that have been made available to most people. Countries like India, Pakistan, and Egypt still have a few more instances of this disease being reported each year. There are about 21 million people who are annually affected by Typhoid every year with about 2 cases of people dying due to the disease becoming severe.
How is Typhoid Fever Transmitted?
Typhoid fever is normally acquired by a person through contaminated food or water that is infected with the bacteria. A person suffering from typhoid fever contaminates the nearby water supply areas through their stool in which high concentration of bacteria is found.
Once a water supply is infected with the bacteria, it barely takes any time at all for the bacteria to spread into the food as well. Around 3-5 percent of the patients are known to be the carriers of the bacteria after being affected by the acute illness. Some patients who are suffering from a mild form of the illness are barely affected by the disease and hence the disease goes unnoticed in these people. These patients can carry the bacteria in their system for a long time, which eventually multiplies in their body in the organs like gallbladder, bile ducts, or liver and eventually passes out into the stools. The bacteria can easily thrive in water or dried sewage for weeks before finding a new host. People carrying these bacteria may have no idea about being chronic carriers since they do not face any symptoms and can actually be the root carriers of the typhoid fever for a number of years.
After consuming contaminated food or water, the bacteria infect organs like the small intestines, and also make their way into the bloodstream of the infected person. The bacteria are carried by white blood cells to various organs of the body like the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. This turns into a vicious circle as the bacteria keep multiplying and again enter the bloodstream of the affected person. A person could develop several symptoms, such as fever, when the bacteria enter the bloodstream. The bacteria then pass into the intestines and can be seen through culture diagnostics in stool tests. A stool culture is normally sensitive in the early and later stage of the disease but often need to be accompanied with some blood cultures for the confirmed diagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Typhoid Fever?
The bacteria of typhoid has an incubation period of around 1-2 weeks, and the duration of the infection lasts for about 3-4 weeks. The symptoms of the disease could vary for each person in terms of the frequency duration, and some of them include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches and pains
- High temperature
- Extreme tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy
In a number of people, symptoms like chest congestion, abdominal pain, etc., may also develop. One starts with the recovery process in the third and the fourth week from the time the disease starts. Around 10% of people suffering from the disease may even start with the recovery process in one or two weeks from the start of the disease.abdominal pain, etc., may also develop. One starts with the recovery process in the third and the fourth week from the time the disease starts. Around 10% of people suffering from the disease may even start with the recovery process in one or two weeks from the start of the disease.
Diagnosing Typhoid in a Person
The doctor in most cases suspects typhoid in a person on the basis of symptoms and travel history. However, for a confirmed diagnosis, a culture test is usually recommended - this shows the presence of S. Typhi bacteria in the blood, tissue or other forms of body fluids.
Body fluid or Tissue Culture
For the culture test, a sample is obtained from the patient’s blood, stool or urine. The culture test is performed by placing the sample on a specific medium where the bacteria grow. The culture growth is thereby seen under a microscope for identifying the bacteria causing typhoid fever. A bone marrow test is very sensitive for identifying the S Typhi bacteria.
While in most cases a culture test is enough to identify the presence of typhoid-causing bacteria, in a few cases other tests may also be required to confirm typhoid infections, such as testing antibodies of typhoid in the blood or certain tests that test for typhoid bacteria in the DNA.
Treating Typhoid in a Person
Normally since typhoid is caused by a bacteria, the best way of treatment is through an Antibiotic therapy.
Some of the commonly prescribed antibiotics for this illness include:
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro): This medication is very commonly prescribed in the United States particularly for non-pregnant people.
Ceftriaxone (Rocephin): This antibiotic is available in the form of an injection and is recommended for people who may not be suitable for the above medicine option, such as small children.
In some patients, drugs used for treating typhoid are likely to cause some serious side effects, and their long-term usage can result in the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
What happens with Antibiotic Resistance
In previous years, the most preferred drug to treat typhoid was chloramphenicol. However, these days it is not recommended often due to the side effects and excessive deterioration in health that occurs after the improvement and the bacterial resistance that it causes.
In fact, antibiotic resistant bacteria often cause a hindrance in the treatment of typhoid fever, which is particularly true these days. Of late, S.typhi bacteria has also been seen resistant to trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and ampicillin.
What Are the Other Ways of Treating Typhoid?
Other forms of treating typhoid include:
Drinking fluids: Drinking adequate fluids helps in prevention of dehydration which is often a secondary factor associated with typhoid. In case you are suffering from severe dehydration, you may require iv fluids to replenish the lost fluids in the body.
Surgery: In some cases, the typhoid bacteria could lead to a perforation in the intestines which requires a surgery to repair the hole.
Home Remedies Found Effective in Treating Typhoid
Nature often gifts us with a number of natural ways to treat serious diseases all at the comfort of our homes and without the risk of any side effects. Here are some effective ways of treating the typhoid fever. However, before you try any of these home remedies, it is important to know the intensity of your disease and to know when you need medical attention to treat your condition. These methods deal with treating the symptoms or side effects of typhoid fever.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is extremely helpful in reducing high body temperature that often occurs due to typhoid fever. It adds on the lost energy in the body and also regains back the minerals that may be lost by a person due to diarrhea.
- Oral Rehydration solution: This solution is extremely useful to add back the lost fluids in the body. It also helps in minimizing the symptoms of typhoid. ORS solution can be bought at a chemist or made at home.
- Bananas: This fruit is proven to be effective in treating diarrhea that is a common symptom of typhoid. Bananas are loaded with potassium that is essential in balancing the lost electrolytes.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is light, eases digestion and helps in prevention of dehydration symptoms. You can flavor the buttermilk with natural ingredients like coriander to enhance the effectiveness of the drink.