Typhoid

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal.

Summary

Typhoid fever is caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. Typhoid fever is infectious. An infected person can pass the bacteria out of their body in their faeces (poos), or, less commonly, in urine (wees).

If someone else eats food or drinks water that's been in contact with a small amount of infected faeces or urine, they can become unwell with the bacteria and develop typhoid fever. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of typhoid fever develop usually develop 8–14 days (range 3–60 days) after being exposed to the bacteria.

Common symptoms of typhoid fever include:

  • a high temperature (39–40°C)
  • stomach pain
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • constipation (hard poo) (adults) or diarrhoea (watery/loose poo) (children).
  • muscles aches
  • a rash made up of small pink spots on the trunk of the body.

Untreated, the illness may last for 3–4 weeks and can have serious complications, including death in about one case out of five.

Even if your symptoms seem to go away, you may still be carrying Salmonella Typhi. If so, the illness could return, or you could pass the infection on to other people.

If you work at a job where you handle food or care for small children, you may not be able to work until it is known that you no longer carry any typhoid bacteria.

The only way to know for sure if an illness is typhoid fever is to have stool (poo) samples or a blood test.

Treatment

Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics.  If diagnosed and treated early, the infection is likely to be mild and can be treated at home with antibiotic tablets.  More serious cases usually require hospital treatment.

If untreated, the illness can have serious complications, including death in about one case out of five.

If you are being treated for typhoid fever, it is important to do the following:

  • Keep taking the prescribed antibiotics for as long as the doctor has asked you to take them.
  • Wash and dry your hands carefully with soap and water after using the toilet, and do not prepare or serve food for other people. This will lower the chance that you will pass the infection on to someone else.

Even if your symptoms seem to go away, you may still be carrying Salmonella Typhi. If so, the illness could come back, or you could pass the infection on to other people.

If you work at a job where you handle food, or care for small children, you may not be able to work until it is known that you no longer carry any typhoid bacteria.

Prevention

To prevent spreading the infection to others:

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, changing a baby’s nappy or caring for people who are unwell.
  • Do not prepare or serve food for other people if you are unwell.
  • Stay away from work, school, social gatherings if you are unwell.
  • Follow the advice of your public health unit on when you are able to return to work or school.If you work at a job where you handle food, care for small children, you may not be able to work until it is known that you no longer carry any typhoid bacteria.
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