Fever, body pain, diarrhoea…are you suffering from typhoid?

Typhoid is caused by ingesting contaminated food or fluids. This article looks at typhoid causes and how to deal with the illness.

You’ve been feeling listless for a day, with a poor appetite and inability to keep your food down. Then the next morning, you get the early signs of a fever. You throw up your breakfast and soon, the fever becomes quite severe and forces you to take to your bed. You wonder how you developed a fever suddenly – then you release that the culprit may be that sandwich you had at the roadside stall a few days ago.

Contaminated food is the #1 cause of typhoid, and you must get medical attention for it at once.

Typhoid causes and how it affects humans

Typhoid is an acute illness that brings fever and a range of other symptoms. It is caused by the Salmonella strain of bacteria, more specifically the Salmonella enterica serotype typhi bacteria or Salmonella paratyphi. These bacteria are left behind in food or water by a human carrier already hosting them in the systems. The transmission of the bacteria is human-to-human from this point on.

Human carriers of typhoid fever can infect water through their stools (most notably in swimming pools or if infected stools have found their way into broken water mains). The contaminated water can result in contaminated food quite easily – you will end up washing your hands using the dirty water, and the same is then transferred to you when you eat using your hands, or prepare food. The bacteria causing typhoid can survive for weeks in food and water.

Once the bacteria enters the body, it starts attacking the small intestine. It can also enter the bloodstream for a while. The bacteria multiplies rapidly when carried to other parts of the body by white blood cells, where they can invade major organs like the liver, and also infuse themselves into the bone marrow. Symptoms often include fever, headaches, listlessness, poor appetite, vomiting, general body ache, etc. Some people also develop congestion and abdominal pain or cramps.

Typhoid fever may last for about 3 to 4 weeks after an incubation period of 1 week.

How is typhoid fever treated?

  • Keeping your hands clean with antibacterial soap by washing frequently during the day is most important to break the cycle of transmission.
  • If there are cases of typhoid in your locality, have a water sample in your house tested by submitting it to the civic authorities, or going to a private lab.
  • Do not prepare or handle food, or eat using your hands, without washing them first with antibacterial handwashing soap. Also wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom if you have recently suffered or continue to suffer from typhoid.
  • Avoid eating at unhygienic food stalls or restaurants where food is often handled without hand gloves.
  • Take a course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, drink plenty of water and sleep as much as you can.