Typhoid – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Typhoid – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Typhoid fever is a very deadly disease even though there is a cure for it. Many people do not know so much about this disease. In fact, most people mistake typhoid for malaria which is one of the reasons for the high mortality rate caused by typhoid.

If you are reading this, then our guess is that you want to learn more about typhoid. We have put together all there is to know for a layman to learn. It should be an enlightening read so let’s get to the crux of this post.

Defining Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is an infectious disease and has the potential to be life-threatening. It is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. it is more common among residents of developing countries and it is most predominant in Southern Asia. This does not rule out the fact that travelers to these areas from more industrialized countries can get infected.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 22 million typhoid fever cases are recorded each year. It is also the cause of close to 200,000 deaths worldwide annually. Some of the major characteristics of typhoid include high fever, constant headaches, and fatigue. Reduced appetite levels are also very common.

It is important to test and treat typhoid once its symptoms are noticed. If it is not treated, these symptoms can remain for months. It also puts the patient at risk of organ damage and loss of life ultimately.

History of Typhoid Fever

You must have heard about typhoid fever so much in your lifetime. It is even possible that you have suffered a few bouts of this disease, yet, you have no idea about its history. We consider it very important to share a little bit of the history of this potential killer with you.

The first time typhoid fever was described was in 1829 by a Paris-based physician. A little over three-score years later, precisely in 1896, the first vaccine was introduced. Even though this vaccine was invented to combat the spread of typhoid, it was quite scarce and didn’t materialize in most places.

As a result of this, typhoid has continued to thrive, especially among the developing countries. In fact, until adequate antibiotic therapy became popular, the mortality rate from untreated typhoid was very high. It was between 10% and 30%. This rate has dropped drastically to less than 4% since antibiotic therapy and modern medicine intervened.

Typhoid Mary: Who was she?

Most people have no idea who Typhoid Mary was. However, you cannot successfully discuss the history of typhoid without mentioning this name. Typhoid Mary, without a doubt, is one of the most famous characters who has carried the Salmonella typhi bacteria. Like we told you earlier, Salmonella typhi is the causative organism of typhoid fever.

It is not unusual for infected individuals who have been treated to still carry the bacteria in their bloodstream. Carriers of this bacteria can still infect other people even if they are not showing any symptoms by themselves. This is probably why you have had several bouts of typhoid even after treatment.

Typhoid Mary lived in New York in the earlier part of the twentieth century. She was a cook and ended up infecting at least forty-nine other individuals with typhoid fever. Of this number, three ended up dying. Despite the infections that came by her hand, Mary stubbornly continued in her profession. This led to her being jailed just so that the general public can be safe.

Causes of Typhoid Fever

One of the most frequent questions where typhoid fever is concerned is “what are the causes of typhoid fever?” The first thing you should know about this is what we have mentioned above. Typhoid fever is a result of being infected by the bacterium, Salmonella typhi.

The bacteria adhere to the ileal tissues which can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. It survives inside macrophage cells before being transported to the mesenteric lymph nodes. This way, it gets to the lymph system.

From here, the bacteria is transferred to the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. and from the macrophages, the bacteria break out and enter the main bloodstream. From here, they can reach just about any part of the human body, especially the gallbladder and GI tract.

Transmission of Typhoid Fever

Ironically, Salmonella typhi is a bacteria that is only found in humans. People who carry the bacterium have their domicile in their intestines. It usually comes out to the open through feces. In the case of acute typhoid, this bacterium is also present in the bloodstream of the patient.

For another person to contract this disease, they have to eat food or drink water handled by someone who is infected. Another way of becoming infected is by consuming food or beverages prepared with contaminated water. By contaminated water, we mean water that has Salmonella typhi.

One of the reasons why this fever is considered contagious is that patients shed the bacteria through their stool. This, in turn, contaminates water and food sources which in turn infect other humans.

One thing you should know at this point is that many people carry this bacterium and have no idea that they do. This is simply because it is possible to have Salmonella typhi in your body without displaying any typhoid symptoms. Transmitting to uninfected individuals is very easy as we have learned from the story of Typhoid Mary.

Risk factors

Every disease has a specific set of risk factors. For the fever, these are some of the important risk factors to watch out for:

  • Most of the people who contract typhoid fever are either living in regions where it is predominant of just visited one of them. Some of these regions include Latin America, Africa, Southern, and Eastern Asia, as well as the Caribbean.
  • Travelers who fail to protect themselves by fortifying their immune system before traveling to these regions.
  • Poor sanitation and hygiene.
  • Living in overcrowded conditions.

Signs and symptoms of typhoid fever

One of the major symptoms of typhoid fever is high fever which can continue over a period of time. In the first few days, this fever may be minimal but it aggravates after a few days. Some of the other very common symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Generalized malaise (fatigue and exhaustion)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Slow heart rate which is relative in comparison to the high fever.
  • Abdominal pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Poor appetite

It is also not strange to see certain patients with distinctive rashes around the chest and abdominal areas. These rashes are also known as rose spots because of their flat shape and rose color. There is also the possibility of an enlarged liver and spleen in patients.

When you don’t treat it, the sickness can last just about a month. It has a mortality rate of between 10% and 30%. The deaths are mostly a result of intestinal perforation and hemorrhage.


When patients who reside in or have recently traveled to predominant typhoid regions display these symptoms, they should be tested. if there is any symptom then they will be given anti-biotics.

By way of confirmation, cultures need to be taken of the blood and stool of the patient. At some point, a biopsy of the bone marrow is also conducted. In the early stages of the disease, it is very possible that the cultures will not present any positive results.

In such cases, ancillary tests such as CT, MRI, and radiographs may be required. This helps to discover further typhoid fever complications like perforation in the bowels and abscesses in bones.

Treatment of Typhoid Fever

Since the discovery of typhoid fever, several antibiotics have been used in the treatment. The most common in most countries are fluoroquinolones such as Ofloxacin and Ciprofloxacin.

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in strains that are resistant to fluoroquinolones and many other drugs. Many physicians have carried out research in this regard and have begun using azithromycin instead. However, certain strains of the Salmonella typhi bacteria are already resistant to this.

Many patients usually still feel the fevers between the first three and five days of the treatment. In fact, there is no ruling out feeling worse in some cases. Once the fever doesn’t subside after the first five days, it is possible that there is resistance. In this case, one can consider an alternative treatment method

Facts about Typhoid Fever

Here are a few important facts that we think you should know about this dreaded disease:

  1. Paratyphoid fever is quite similar to typhoid fever and it is just as deadly. It results from the infection of a different bacterium known as Salmonella paratyphi.
  2. You can prevent typhoid fever with vaccination.
  3. Surviving the fever automatically makes a person a carrier that can infect other people.
  4. Many of the travelers that contact typhoid did not get the vaccination before traveling.


In this post, we have shown you all you need to know about Typhoid Fever. If you have any questions ask them in the comments section below.

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