What is Typhoid fever?
Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi. The incubation period is 7–21 days. Symptoms of typhoid fever include sustained fever as high as 39°–40°C. There may also be headache, malaise, loss of appetite, and constipation or diarrhoea (adults tend to get constipation while children tend to get diarrhoea). In severe cases, there may be intestinal bleeding and perforation, impaired consciousness and even death if untreated.
The majority of patients can fully recover after treatment. However, about 2–5% of patients will become carriers of the bacteria and they may require long-term follow-up.
How does it spread?
Typhoid fever is transmitted via faecal-oral route. The causative bacteria are passed in the faeces and urine of infected people, which may contaminate food, water or beverages and cause infection in the consumer of such contaminated food.
How can you prevent it?
Travellers can protect themselves by observing good personal hygiene and food hygiene. They should always wash their hands before eating or handling food, and after going to the toilet. They should avoid drinking contaminated water or beverage with ice of doubtful origin, eating uncooked or undercooked food, particularly shellfish, and eating cut or peeled fruits.
Typhoid vaccine is available and should be considered for those at risk of infection, i.e. travellers visiting high risk areas. The vaccine can be used in persons 2 years of age or older. It should be given at least 1 week before travel. Duration of protection is about 3 years.
How is it treated?
Infected individuals should seek medical attention for management. The infection can be treated by antibiotics. Symptomatic treatment such as fluid replacement and adequate rest is also important.