The monsoons are here, and with water logging a common sight around every corner, cases of people suffering from typhoid are rising. So before you reach for that yummy plate of pani puri or bhel, think about the possibility of contracting the disease.
Typhoid, also known as typhoid fever is a life threatening disease that is caused due to an infection by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) almost 21.5 million people in developing countries contract typhoid each year. Here are a few common questions about the disease answered:
How is typhoid caused?
The bacterium Salmonella typhi is present only in human beings and is transmitted through contaminated food or water. People with this infection carry the bacterium in their intestines and bloodstream, and those who have recovered from the disease could still have the bacterium in their system; they are known as ‘carriers’ of the disease. Both ill people and carriers shed Salmonella typhi in their stool. Infection is usually spread when food or water is handled by a person who is shedding the bacterium or if sewage water leaks into drinking water or food that is then consumed. That is why this disease is common in areas where proper hand washing techniques are not followed.
What are the common symptoms of typhoid?
Once the bacterium is ingested it quickly multiplies within the stomach, liver or gallbladder and finally enters the blood stream causing symptoms like fever (usually between 1030F- 1040F), rashes (flat, rose-coloured spots), vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, general fatigue. In severe cases one may suffer from intestinal perforations or internal bleeding, diarrhoea or constipation.
One of the characteristic symptoms of typhoid is a ‘step ladder fever’. This means that the fever gradually fluctuates between very high and low fever for a short period of time, till it peaks at 1030F – 1040F. In patients without any complications the condition subsides in about three to four weeks after its onset. In about 10% of people, the condition relapses after about one week of convalescence.*
How is it diagnosed?
Usually diagnosed using a stool sample or blood sample, the presence of the bacterium is most easily visible either at the beginning or at the end of the disease.
Is there a cure?
Once diagnosed a patient is treated with antibiotics. A few years back, patients were treated using chloramphenicol. But after it showed to have severe side effects in some patients, the drug of choice has been changed to ciprofloxacin and ampicillin amongst others. Usually depending on the severity of the condition, a patient might be administered the drugs either orally or intravenously.
What care should one take during convalescence?
If someone has suffered from typhoid, they should ideally not discontinue their medication as soon as they feel better, this is because typhoid has a high rate of relapse. It is important that the patient continue his/her medication until their doctor asks them to stop. They must also ensure that they wash their hands well with an antibacterial soap after going to the toilet and before touching any food or water.
What can one do to avoid contracting the condition?
Today, there are vaccines that can protect you from contracting typhoid. The Ty21a vaccine is administered intramuscularly (injected into a muscle) and requires the patient to take a booster shot after five years. That being said, even if a person has taken the vaccine, they should not expose themselves to possible infectious agents, because the vaccine is still not very effective. As of last year the IISc (Indian Institute of Science) was working on an improved vaccine that would be foolproof.
Apart from the vaccine, there are some basic things that one can take care of in order to avoid the condition:
- Do not eat food cooked on the road side. This is because it is very difficult to judge the water source they use and the cleanliness of the food handler.
- Do not have ice or popsicles prepared locally. Since the water source and cleanliness of the manufacturing facility is unknown, it is best avoided.
- Do not eat fruits and raw vegetables that have been precut.
- One must make sure they wash their hands well before cooking a meal or eating.
- Always drink either bottled water or boiled water. It is essential that the water is brought to a rolling boil. This means that the water reaches a boiling point and is allowed to boil for about two to three minutes.
Typhoid is a completely avoidable condition, just keep these simple tips in mind to keep the disease at bay.
* As per Medicine net
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