Typhoid or typhoid fever is one of the most common water borne diseases which is caused by consumption of water or food contaminated by human fecal matter. It is caused by bacteria which are found in contaminated food or water. Typhoid can be dangerous for children.
Typhoid is common in areas with poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. Its outbreak is also common after floods, when drinking water gets contaminated with sewage water or after natural calamities which causes displacement resulting in people living in close quarters or in camps with improper infrastructure and lack of clean water. The recent floods also caused the outbreak of water borne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis A & E.
Pakistan is one of the developing countries where typhoid fever is common. In this article we will explain the causes, symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures for typhoid.
Causes of Typhoid
The causes of typhoid are very similar to other water borne diseases. Its bacteria enter the body through fecal-oral route, i.e., fecal matter from infected person is ingested by another person in form of water, liquid, or food.
You can get typhoid if,
- You drink contaminated water.
- You eat food that is prepared with contaminated water or contaminated with typhoid bacteria by flies.
- You consume fruits or vegetables that are washed with contaminated water.
- You do not wash your hands after using the toilet or before starting your meal.
- You eat fish or sea food, which was bred in contaminated water.
- You consume undercooked food, especially meat, chicken, and fish.
Symptoms of Typhoid
Typhoid’s symptoms develop slowly, taking a week or two to show after exposure to contaminated food or water. These symptoms are;,
- Low grade fever that eventually turns into high grade fever with a possibility of reaching as high as 104.9 F
- Body ache, weakness, and fatigue
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation
- Rashes on skin
- Extremely swollen stomach.
Note: Dehydration can cause death which is why it is extremely important to start rehydration therapy for patients who have persistent diarrhea or have lost body water due to some other cause like sweating profusely or long exposure to sun.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Typhoid is diagnosed by doctors through stool or blood tests. If typhoid bacterium is detected in your tests, your doctor would give you anti-biotic therapy depending on the kind of typhoid you have. If diarrhea from typhoid has caused dehydration, you would be given rehydration therapy i.e., you would be given ORS or you would be subcutaneously rehydrated with a drip.
If you have persistent fever or show any other symptoms of typhoid, immediately seek medical attention. In case of persistent diarrhea, take Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) immediately to rehydrate your body.
One of the most potent ways of preventing typhoid is by taking typhoid vaccine. Pakistan is first country in the world which has made typhoid vaccine part of routine immunization regimen as per WHO. Children above the age of 9 months are vaccinated against typhoid for free during routine campaigns that are carried out by health department. If government is offering typhoid vaccination in your area, do not hesitate to vaccinate your children at the earliest possible.
Prevention of Typhoid
Typhoid has different strains with multi-drug resistant typhoid – a strain that is resistant to different drugs – being one of the biggest concerns for health care experts. In Pakistan the situation is particularly alarming because extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid fever was detected in the country in 2016 and the outbreak is still on-going. This makes it preventive and precautionary measures even more important because XDR typhoid fever cannot be treated with a range of drugs.
To ensure safety and health against typhoid fever, you can take following measures:
i. Get vaccinated against typhoid.
ii. Drink clean and safe water.
Drink clean and safe drinking water - you can boil or filter water. Or in case boiling or filtering facility is not available you can use water purification tablets in water to make it fit for drinking. This step is particularly important for individuals living in flood hit areas or living in camps.
iii. Eat Clean Food
Food safety and cleanliness is extremely important to avoid catching typhoid. You can take following measures at home or if you are living in camps,
- Do not consume food made in unhygienic conditions, especially street food or food which source is unknown to you.
- Hand hygiene is also extremely important for food handling – wash your hands before handling or cooking food as well as before every meal.
- Use clean or safe drinking water to prepare food – you can boil water or filter when preparing food with it.
- Wash fruits and vegetable with clean water.
- Peel fruits and vegetables before eating as they might have germs on their surface.
- Do not consume raw or undercooked fish or seafood, meat, and chicken.
- Do not drink raw milk – boil milk properly or get UHT treated packaged milk from the market.
- Eat freshly cooked and hot food. Avoid food that you suspect might be spoiled or smells bad.
- Cover cooked food properly to save it from flies herding on it.
iv. Follow Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene is extremely important for overall health and well-being. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and clean water after using the washroom or before every meal. If you are living in a camp, request your camp administrator or any relief organization working in your area to provide you with soap and clean water.
v. Follow General Hygiene
Besides hand hygiene general hygiene or overall cleanliness is also extremely important for health. You can take the following steps to ensure your and your family’s safety,
- Wash your hands and face.
- Brush your teeth regularly.
- Cut your nails and clean them regularly. Make sure there is nothing stuck inside your nails as a microscopic amount of fecal matter if ingested can cause typhoid or cholera.
vi. Keep your house and surroundings clean
Keeping your house and your neighborhood clean is extremely important to prevent typhoid and numerous other diseases,
- Make sure your washroom is properly cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- During spring and summers intensity of flies is high which carry fecal matter that can cause typhoid, make sure to properly insulate your house so flies cannot enter.
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