If you ask the average Nigerian, “what is wrong with you?”, He or she will be quick to tell you, “Typhoid and Malaria, but in reality, a lot of them do not have it, they may have another infection that closely resembles typhoid or are simply just not identifying the symptoms of typhoid fever correctly.
What is it?
Typhoid fever also known as enteric fever is a serious bacterial infection that is spread through contaminated food or water. It is caused by a bacteria known as salmonella typhi mostly, though there are other versions that also cause disease from the same family
When typhoid is not treated properly or left untreated, it can lead to delirium, a hole in the intestines and bleeding, sometimes even death within one month of infection.
People who survive this stage can be left with serious brain and psychiatric problems.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of typhoid fever will usually in most cases start a week after infection and they are mostly in the gut or abdomen, another name is called enteric fever: Enteric means gut (intestines) etc
The initial symptoms are
- a fever (usually high)
- pain in the abdomen
- constipation (this can last throughout the illness)
- a dull headache that mainly affects the front of the head
- a feeling of illness that makes the person feel very unwell
As the infection enters the next week, some people may develop a rash that is on the skin, that blanches when you press them.
When it progresses further, the symptoms become worse with poor appetite, some people have diarrhoea that has a greenish yellow colour and then the confusion sets in, sometimes, they may become mentally unstable
Typhoid can also lead to serious complications, for example
- an infection of the lungs known as pneumonia
- Infections of the kidney
- Infections of the heart muscle called myocarditis
- They may begin to see or feel things that aren’t there: hallucinations
What Causes Typhoid?
We said earlier that it is caused by a bacterium known as Salmonella Typhi, there are other ones like the Salmonella paratyphi that is said to also cause infection.
Can be spread by eating contaminated food or water that has germs gotten from the faeces of an infected person.
Some people get infected with Typhoid, recover and still carry the bacteria, there is a record of a lady called Mary Mallon who had infected about 51 people and three died, she had to be prevented from cooking
How can I prevent It?
- Avoid ice cubes, unless you are sure that the water it was made from is clean
- Avoid eating from roadside vendors that do not pay attention to hygiene
- Buy water from reputable people or companies
- Boil water before drinking
- Wash your hands before you eat
- Wash fruits properly before eating
- Avoid salads if you are not sure of how it was prepared
- Avoid raw meat
- Wash fruits in chlorinated water
- If you are having diarrhoea, try not to prepare meals
- Sanitize your hands with sanitizers that contain at least 60% of alcohol
- Vaccinate yourself, the typhoid vaccine is now available for people who are at risk especially if you live in areas where a lot of people have it or are travelling to one, or if you are a carrier, or you are a laboratory worker that comes in contact with this bacteria, it can offer you protection for up to 2 years before you need another dose of the vaccine. This vaccine is said to be 50 to 80 per cent effective in preventing infections and comes in two forms
One for children under the age of two, it contains the inactivated form of the bacteria
One for adults contains a live but weakened form of the bacteria and takes about a week to start working
How will I be treated?
The Widal test was formerly used to test for the presence of typhoid, But this test is HIGHLY UNRELIABLE
It can be positive when the person doesn’t have the infection. For a more reliable test, a blood culture is preferred as it gives a more accurate result, your stool and urine can also be cultured.
If it is confirmed that a person has typhoid, it can be treated using antibiotics. Remember to finish your antibiotics as prescribed even when you start feeling better.
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