Typhoid: Symptoms, treatment, causes, and prevention

Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can lead to a high fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can be fatal. It is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi.

The infection is often passed on through contaminated food and drinking water, and it is more prevalent in places where handwashing is less frequent. It can also be passed on by carriers who do not know they carry the bacteria.

Annually, there are around 5,700 cases in the United States, and 75 percent of these start while traveling internationally. Globally, around 21.5 million people a year contract typhoid.

If typhoid is caught early, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics; if it is not treated, typhoid can be fatal.

Fast facts on typhoid

Here are some key points about typhoid. More detail is in the main article.

Typhoid is a common bacterial infection in countries with low incomes.

Untreated, it is fatal in around 25 percent of cases.

Symptoms include a high fever and gastrointestinal problems.

Some people carry the bacteria without developing symptoms

Most cases reported in the United States are contracted overseas

The only treatment for typhoid is antibiotics

What is typhoid?

Typhoid bacteria 3d render
Typhoid is an infection caused by Salmonella typhimurium bacteria that is spread from human to human.

Typhoid is an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhi).

The bacterium lives in the intestines and bloodstream of humans. It spreads between individuals by direct contact with the feces of an infected person.

No animals carry this disease, so transmission is always human to human.

If untreated, around 1 in 5 cases of typhoid can be fatal. With treatment, fewer than 4 in 100 cases are fatal.

S. typhi enters through the mouth and spends 1 to 3 weeks in the intestine. After this, it makes its way through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

From the bloodstream, it spreads into other tissues and organs. The immune system of the host can do little to fight back because S. typhi can live within the host’s cells, safe from the immune system.

Typhoid is diagnosed by detecting the presence of S. typhi via blood, stool, urine, or bone marrow sample.

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Treatment

The only effective treatment for typhoid is antibiotics. The most commonly used are ciprofloxacin (for non-pregnant adults) and ceftriaxone.

Other than antibiotics, it is important to rehydrate by drinking adequate water.

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