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Typhoid and Paratyphoid

Infections caused by salmonella bacteria that result in high fever followed by a rash

  • Visiting or living in areas where the disease occurs is a risk factor
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

Typhoid and paratyphoid are almost identical diseases that are caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi and S. paratyphi, respectively. The bacteria multiply in the intestines and spread to the blood and to other organs, such as the spleen, gallbladder, and liver. The diseases are transmitted through infected faeces and most commonly occur in areas where hygiene and sanitation are poor. Infection is commonly due to food or water contaminated by unwashed hands.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of both diseases appear 7–14 days after infection and may include:

  • Headache and high fever.

  • Dry cough.

  • Abdominal pain and constipation, usually followed by diarrhoea.

  • Rash of rose-coloured spots appearing on the chest, abdomen, and back.

Both infections can lead to serious complications, such as intestinal bleeding and perforation of the intestines.

What might be done?

Typhoid and paratyphoid can be diagnosed by testing blood or faecal samples for the bacteria. The diseases are usually treated with antibiotics in hospital. Symptoms normally subside 2–3 days after treatment is begun, and most people recover fully in a month.

Even with treatment, the bacteria are excreted for about 3 months after the symptoms have disappeared. Some people who do not have treatment may become lifelong carriers of the bacteria and transmit the infection to others, although they appear to be healthy.

Scrupulous attention to personal hygiene and to food and water hygiene is the best protection against infection (see Travel health). Several vaccines (including oral vaccine) are available, and if you intend to travel to a developing country, immunization may be advisable (see Travel immunizations).

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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