Keep an eye on sanitation, hand hygiene to keep typhoid at bay

DUBAI - Typhoid fever is a common worldwide illness, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the faeces or urine of an infected person.

By (Staff reporter)

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Published: Sun 24 Jul 2011, 12:59 AM

Last updated: Mon 22 May 2023, 3:39 PM

Flying insects feeding on faeces may occasionally transfer the bacteria to humans, explains Dr Amer Kadhim Al Badry, Specialist, Internal Medicine, Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah.

Typhoid fevers are prevalent in many regions of the world, with an estimated 16–33 million cases every year resulting in 216,000 deaths in endemic areas.

“This is a bacterial disease, caused by Salmonella typhi,” said Dr Al Badry.

“The clinical course of typhoid fever varies greatly, ranging from fever with malaise to marked multi-system toxemia.”

The fever progresses slowly and reaches as high as 40 °C (104 °F). Other symptoms may occur such as vague, dull continuous headache lasting for several days, profuse sweating, stomach pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, nose bleeds, dry cough and joint pain.

“About 10-15 per cent of patients develop severe disease and complications such as intestinal hemorrhage or perforation in untreated patients or when treatment is delayed,” he said.

“The fever may progress in a stepwise manner to become persistent and high grade by the end of second week. It can last up to four weeks if left untreated, followed by return to a normal temperature,” he added.

Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called “carriers”, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed the infection in their faeces (stool), he said.

Typhoid fever typically has an incubation period of 10-14 days that means symptoms often start after approximately two weeks from the time of ingesting the bacteria.

The infection is usually water borne, it spreads by: shell fish contaminated by infected water, infected milk and ice cream made with infected milk products, salads, which have been washed with infected water, contaminated meat and poultry.

Most of the infected people with typhoid are cured with prompt antibiotic therapy, good rehydration with intravenous fluids and other supportive treatment.

Diagnosis of carriers is useful for public health purposes.

Two types of vaccines are available to prevent the infection: Oral and injectable; both vaccines are not to be given to children under the age of two years, said the doctor.

Immunity usually lasts for three years and booster vaccines are required to maintain the immunity. Disease prevention consequently includes proper sanitation and hand hygiene, as well as the avoidance of insufficiently cooked or mishandled food

Dr Amer Kadhim Al Badry, Specialist, Internal Medicine, Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah

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