Typhoid Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & More

Typhoid fever is a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection. It is caused by the bacterium, Salmonella typhi. The bacteria are deposited in water or food by a human carrier and are then spread to other people in the area. Salmonella typhi is shed from the body in stool. You may get typhoid fever if you ingest food or beverages prepared by someone who is shedding the bacteria and who does not wash their hands properly.

Most cases of typhoid fever occur in developing nations where sanitation is poor and getting clean water is a problem. However, the disease can occur anywhere, including industrialized countries such as America. Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water. You can also get the infection through close contact with someone who’s infected.

Symptoms can occur within three days up to three months after consumption of contaminated food or water, usually in one to three weeks. You may experience signs and symptoms such as a high fever, headache, abdominal pain, and either constipation or diarrhea.

Who is most at risk for getting typhoid fever?

Anyone can get typhoid fever but commonly in areas where good sanitation is lacking. Also, limited access to clean, safe foods and water increases your risk. Moreover, it commonly occurs in people who travel to areas where enteric fever is common. The infection happens when a person eats or drinks something contaminated with the bacteria. When the bacteria get into the body, they quickly multiply and spread into the bloodstream.

How does typhoid fever spread?

Typhoid usually spreads through human contact only. The bacteria that cause typhoid fever spread through ingestion of contaminated food or water. The spread of typhoid fever can be through means such as:

  • Poor sanitation.
  • Flies
  • Poor handling of fruits, vegetables and other raw foods.
  • Improper washing of hands after using the washroom
  • Leaking private parts during sexual intercourse.

What are the symptoms of typhoid fever?

The disease can come on suddenly or very gradually over a few weeks. The disease usually causes high fever, stomachache and body pains. This occurs a week or two after exposure to the bacteria (but sometimes later). One may experience loss of appetite and constant weakness. Headaches are common and frequent when a person is ailing with typhoid.

Since the bacteria primarily resides in the intestines, constipation may also be be a symptom. Diarrhea and vomiting may also occur. One may also experience a sore throat during the onset of typhoid. Without treating the infection, you may lose weight. Also, you may develop a swollen or bloated belly.

In addition, you may also develop a red, spotted rash on the lower chest or upper belly. Without treatment, typhoid fever may last a month or more. Due to it’s duration it can become very serious, even life-threatening. In most cases, the symptoms start to go away in the third and fourth weeks. This is when the disease doesn’t cause any other health problems.

Sometimes, after the illness seems gone it can come back. However, after recovery, some people become carriers of the bacteria. This means that they’ll have no symptoms, but do have the bacteria in their bodies and can pass it on to others. Besides, without treatment, it can be fatal. Most people recover fully over several weeks with appropriate treatment.


Antibiotics are used to treat typhoid fever. These medications kill the bacteria that cause the infection. Several different types of antibiotics are used to treat typhoid fever. Some people need supportive therapies, such as fluid or electrolyte replacement, depending on the severity of the infection. Also eat nutritious diet.

People given antibiotics usually begin to feel better in 2 to 3 days. However, those who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months. But as many as 20 percent may die from complications of the infection.

Some experts believe that vaccinating high-risk populations is the best way to control typhoid fever. A vaccine is recommended if you live in or you’re traveling to areas where the risk of getting typhoid fever is high. Neither vaccine is 100 percent effective, and both require repeat immunizations, as vaccine effectiveness diminishes over time.

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