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Typhoid fever is a serious infection caused by bacteria. It is common in the rest of the world, but less so in the U.S. Most cases in this country are in people who got the disease while traveling elsewhere.
You can get the disease by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with the bacteria.
Typhoid fever is caused by bacteria (Salmonella typhi). The bacteria are passed on by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by someone with the disease. The bacteria are also found in the infected person’s stool. You can also get the disease if water used for drinking or washing food is contaminated with sewage containing the bacteria.
People who recover from typhoid fever can sometimes still carry the bacteria and can pass them on to other people.
Once the bacteria are in your body, they increase in number and spread into your blood. You may not have symptoms for 6 to 30 days after the first exposure. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will use a blood test or stool sample to diagnose typhoid fever. These tests can find the typhoid bacteria. But these tests are less accurate if you have just come down with the disease. Because of this, your provider will also look at your symptoms and travel history.
See your healthcare provider right away if you think you have been exposed to typhoid fever. Most otherwise healthy adults get better on their own, but some people who are not treated may have a fever for weeks or months.
Antibiotics are often used to treat typhoid fever. But your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
It is important to remember that the danger of typhoid fever does not end when symptoms go away. You could still be carrying the bacteria. The illness could also return. Or you could pass the disease to other people. You should:
Complications of typhoid fever include intestinal bleeding and persistent fever and weakness.
Once your symptoms are gone, you may still have the typhoid bacteria in your body. Follow up with your healthcare provider to make sure the bacteria are completely gone. You will also need to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands before and after you use the bathroom. You should also not make food for anyone else until the bacteria are gone.
Typhoid fever is very common in developing countries. Travelers to Africa, Latin America, and Asian countries—except Japan—are at highest risk. A vaccine is available. The best time to get it is 2 weeks before traveling. Depending on the type of typhoid vaccine, it will lose effectiveness after 2 to 5 years. So you may need a booster shot.
You can also prevent typhoid when traveling by:
Also do not eat food from street vendors. Any raw food could be contaminated. Avoid:
Other tips for prevention:
Call your healthcare provider right away if your symptoms return or get worse, or you have new ones.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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