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Breaking Down Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Prevention And Diagnosis

wash your hands thoroughly

Did you know that in 1884, railroad magnate and former California Governor Leland Stanford and his wife Jane Stanford, lost their only child to typhoid fever? As a memorial and as a way to educate more children, they built the institution that is now the prestigious Stanford University.

Typhoid Fever is a life-threatening infection caused by a virulent bacteria called Salmonella Typhi that is rare in the most developed countries but remains a serious health concern in developing countries including here in Nigeria. Access to safe water and adequate sanitation is important in preventing transmission.

Mode of transmission

You can contract the infection if you eat food handled by someone with typhoid fever who hasn’t washed carefully after using the toilet. Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water and occasionally through close contact with someone’s who’s infected.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms are likely to develop gradually – often appearing one to three weeks after exposure to the disease.

Early stage symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Weakness & fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Dry cough
  • Loss of appetite & weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Rashes
  • Extremely swollen abdomen

If you don’t receive treatment, you may experience these later stage symptom:

  • Become delirious
  • Suffer intestinal perforation or haemorrhage
  • Death can occur in severe cases

Prevention

  • Wash your hands: Frequent hand washing in hot soapy water for at least 30 seconds, wash before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for times when water isn’t available.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water: Contaminated drinking water is one of the main causes of typhoid fever so endeavour to drink only safe treated water.
  • Clean raw produce before eating: Fruits and vegetables that have been washed in unsafe water are an easy target for the bacteria. So always ensure that these are washed thoroughly in safe clean water.
  • Vaccinating high risk populations

If you are recovering from typhoid fever, these measures can help keep others safe:

  • Avoid handling food: Avoid preparing food for others until your doctor says you are no longer contagious
  • Take your antibiotics: Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking your antibiotics and be sure to finish the entire prescription
  • Wash your hands often: This is the single most important thing you can do to keep from spreading the infection to others. Use hot soapy water and scrub thoroughly for at least 30 seconds, especially before eating and after using the toilet.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of typhoid fever on clinical grounds is difficult, as the presenting symptoms are diverse and similar to those observed with other febrile illnesses.

As one of the enteric diseases, typhoid fever can be accurately diagnosed by analyzing stool and blood specimens. These samples will be examined for the Salmonella Typhi bacteria that causes the condition.

Analyzing patients’ stool and blood samples is recognized by the World Health Organisation as one of the most accurate ways to diagnose typhoid fever.

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