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Typhoid Fever

What is typhoid fever?

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi (S. Typhi). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), typhoid fever affects about 22 million persons in the world each year. The incidence of typhoid fever in US citizens and residents who travel abroad is very low.

How can typhoid fever be prevented?

A vaccination for typhoid fever is available. However, it can lose effectiveness after several years, so a booster vaccination may be necessary.
Other preventives for typhoid fever are:

  • only use water that has been boiled or chemically disinfected for:
  • o drinking, or preparing beverages such as tea or coffee
    o brushing teeth
    o washing face and hands (can also use alcohol-based gel to wash hands)
    o washing fruits and vegetables
    o washing eating utensils and food preparation equipment
    o washing the surfaces of tins, cans, and bottles that contain food or beverages

  • do not eat food or drink beverages from unknown sources
  • do not put ice in drinks
  • any raw food could be contaminated, including:
  • o fruits, vegetables, salad greens
    o unpasteurized milk and milk products
    o raw meat
    o shellfish
    o any fish caught in tropical reefs rather than the open ocean

    Taking antibiotics is not a preventive for typhoid fever.

    Treatment for typhoid fever:

    See your physician immediately if you think you have been exposed to typhoid fever. People who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and may eventually die from complications. Treatment will probably include an antibiotic to treat the disease. Specific treatment for typhoid fever will be determined by your physician based on:

    • your age, overall health, and medical history
    • extent of the disease
    • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
    • expectations for the course of the disease
    • your opinion or preference

    It is important to remember that the danger of typhoid fever does not end when symptoms disappear. You could still be carrying S. Typhi and the illness could return, or you could pass the disease to other people. People who have typhoid fever should:

    • take any prescribed antibiotics.
    • wash your hands after using the bathroom.
    • have a series of stool cultures – to ensure that the S. Typhi bacteria are no longer present.