Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. Typhoid fever is rare in industrialized countries. However, it remains a serious health threat in the developing world, especially for children.
Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water or through close contact with someone who’s infected. Signs and symptoms usually include high fever, headache, abdominal pain, and either constipation or diarrhea. When treated with antibiotics, most people with typhoid fever feel better within a few days, although a small percentage of them may die of complications.
Vaccines against typhoid fever are available, but they’re only partially effective. Vaccines usually are reserved for those who may be exposed to the disease or are traveling to areas where typhoid fever is common.
1st week of illness
Once signs and symptoms do appear, you’re likely to experience:
Fever, that starts low and increases daily, often to as high as 103 or 104 F (39.4 or 40 C)
Weakness and fatigue
Loss of appetite
Diarrhea or constipation
2nd week of illness
If you don’t receive treatment for typhoid fever, you may enter a second stage during which you become very ill and experience:
Continuing high fever
Either diarrhea or severe constipation
Considerable weight loss
Extremely distended abdomen
3rd week of illness
By the third week, you may:
Lie motionless and exhausted with your eyes half-closed in what’s known as the typhoid state
Life-threatening complications often develop at this time.
4th week of illness
Improvement may come slowly during the fourth week. Your fever is likely to decrease gradually until your temperature returns to normal in another week to 10 days. But signs and symptoms can return up to two weeks after your fever has subsided
Typhoid fever is caused by a virulent bacterium called Salmonella typhi. Although they’re related, S. typhi and the bacterium responsible for salmonellosis, another serious intestinal infection, aren’t the same. The bacteria that cause typhoid fever spread through contaminated food or water and occasionally through direct contact with someone who is infected.
Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
Inflammation of the lining of the heart and valves (endocarditis)
Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)
Kidney or bladder infections
Infection and inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
Psychiatric problems such as delirium, hallucinations and paranoid psychosis
Treatment and drugs
Antibiotic therapy is the only effective treatment for typhoid fever.
Commonly prescribed antibiotics
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro). In the United States, doctors often prescribe this for nonpregnant adults.
Ceftriaxone (Rocephin). This injectable antibiotic is an alternative for women who are pregnant and for children who may not be candidates for ciprofloxacin.
Other treatment steps aimed at managing symptoms include:
Drinking fluids. This helps prevent the dehydration that results from a prolonged fever and diarrhea. If you’re severely dehydrated, you may need to receive fluids through a vein in your arm (intravenously).
Eating a healthy diet. Nonbulky, high-calorie meals can help replace the nutrients you lose when you’re sick.
Prevent infecting others
If you’re recovering from typhoid, these measures can help keep others safe:
Wash your hands often. This is the single most important thing you can do to keep from spreading the infection to others. Use plenty of hot, soapy water and scrub thoroughly for at least 30 seconds, especially before eating and after using the toilet.
Clean household items daily. Clean toilets, door handles, telephone receivers and water taps at least once a day with a household cleaner and paper towels or disposable cloths.
Avoid handling food. Avoid preparing food for others until your doctor says you’re no longer contagious. If you work in the food service industry or a health care facility, you won’t be allowed to return to work until tests show that you’re no longer shedding typhoid bacteria.
Keep personal items separate. Set aside towels, bed linen and utensils for your own use and wash them frequently in hot, soapy water. Heavily soiled items can be soaked first in disinfectant.