Typhoid is a bacterial disease transmitted through contaminated food and water. The risk of contracting Typhoid is thought to be in the region of 1 in 3,000 up to 1 in 5,000 for the International Traveller undertaking a two week trip to the tropics – especially for those visiting parts of India. It is a very contagious disease and requires urgent treatment. Some patients remain carriers and may be capable of passing the disease to others.
The disease is transmitted through contaminated food and water. While insects may also play a role in transferring contaminated material to food for human consumption. The incubation period is usually between 10 and 14 days after infection.
Typically the disease presents with fever and severe headaches. Despite the high fever and the severity of the symptoms many patients will show the characteristic slowing of their heart rate. Patients may also have either constipation or diarrhoea. If diarrhoea is present it may show the characteristic green pea-soup appearance which is so common in both salmonella and shigella infections. The bacteria may escape from the intestinal into the blood stream and cause either a bacteraemia or a full septacaemia. Enlargement of the spleen, rose spots on the abdomen and a profound state of collapse may also be found. Some patients may perforate their intestinal wall if treatment is not commenced at an early time.
The disease is generally transmitted in areas with poor sanitation where the possibility of faecal matter turning up in drinking water or vegetable gardens.
Various drugs are used to treat this condition. Most commonly nowadays Ciprofloxacin gives good rapid blood levels but it needs to be continued for between 10 days to 2 weeks. In developing countries Chloramphenicol is still widely used despite its potential to cause serious bone marrow toxicity. Growing resistance to Amoxicillin and various other drugs needs to be borne in mind when treating these patients.
The best method of preventing contamination is to pay special attention to the food one consumes. Vaccination should be considered as second line defense. [Food & Waterborne Disease]
Vaccination provides cover against Typhoid for a period of 36 months.