How to Identify and Help Prevent Typhoid Fever

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Although it is increasingly rare in developed areas of the world—where improved sanitation systems greatly reduce its presence—typhoid fever still affects an estimated 22 million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 Caused by Salmonella typhi, typhoid fever is a bacterial disease that is transmitted by ingesting food or drink with fecal contamination. The bacteria are deposited in water or food by a human carrier and are then spread to other people in the area.

Typhoid Fever Signs and Symptoms

Although children who contract typhoid fever typically become sick faster, among older children and adults, the symptoms build gradually, over a two- to three-week period. Early typhoid fever symptoms include:

  • Headaches and body aches
  • Dry cough
  • Fever (up to 104° F)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Rash of rose-colored spots, in some cases
People who don’t undergo treatment at this stage of the illness can move into a second stage of symptoms, which include:
  • Ongoing high fever
  • Continued diarrhea or severe constipation
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Distended abdomen
If left untreated, typhoid fever can become life-threatening during the third and fourth weeks of infection and beyond.

How Is Typhoid Fever Treated?

Experts recommend seeing a doctor immediately if you suspect you have typhoid fever. It is typically treated with antibiotics. Also, be aware that even as symptoms seem to go away, you could still be carrying typhoid bacteria, and can be at risk for infecting others. Your doctor can determine whether you are no longer carrying typhoid bacteria.

How Can Typhoid Fever Be Prevented?

Some basic preventive measures can help protect you against typhoid fever if you are at risk. First, avoid all risky foods and drinks—this includes buying from street vendors, where it can be difficult to ensure sanitary conditions. Also:

  • If you drink water, buy it bottled, or bring it to a boil for a minute before you drink it.
  • Avoid flavored-ice treats that may have been made with contaminated water.
  • Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked.
  • Peel raw fruits and vegetables yourself before eating them.
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with an antibacterial soap such as Safeguard® with Germ Shield+. Scrub hands briskly for at least 15 seconds, and then dry them with a disposable towel.