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What is typhoid? What are the symptoms? And how can you prevent you and your family from becoming infected?

What is typhoid?

Typhoid, or typhoid fever, is a serious bacterial infection. You should seek medical attention immediately if you’re worried that you may be at risk.

What causes typhoid?

A bacterium called Salmonella typhi causes typhoid. It’s similar to the Salmonella bacteria that cause food poisoning, but with more serious symptoms.

How do you catch typhoid?

The bacteria that cause the disease live in the faeces and urine of an infected person. If someone eats food or drinks water that’s been contaminated with even a small amount of infected faeces or urine, they can become ill with typhoid.

caring african medical nurse comforting senior patient in office

What are the symptoms?

• fever and chills
• red spots on the chest and abdomen
• a high temperature 39-40°C (103-104°F)
• confusion, delirium and hallucinations
• constipation or diarrhoea (sometimes with bloody stools)
• abdominal pain

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you’re at all worried, especially if you’re in an area where typhoid is prevalent. Typhoid is most common in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and South America.

What should I do if I think I have typhoid?

Get medical treatment as soon as possible. Typhoid fever can be treated with a course of antibiotics. If you’re diagnosed at an early stage, the infection is likely to be mild and can usually be treated at home with a 1-2 -week course of antibiotics.

The infection can become far more serious if left untreated, so see your doctor if you’re at all concerned. In the meantime, don’t prepare food for other people and always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after going to the toilet.

How can I protect myself from typhoid?

• Wash your hands properly with soap and water. This is particularly important after using the toilet and for anyone who’s preparing food. Read more about how to wash your hands properly.
• Boil drinking water. It needs to be boiled for at least 1 minute to kill the bacteria.
• Cook with boiling water and wash fruit and vegetables with cooled, boiled water.

4 top tips to tackle typhoid

1. Always wash your hands with soap and water, particularly after going to the toilet or cleaning a baby’s bottom.
2. Cook food thoroughly and eat it when it’s hot.
3. Peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
4. Avoid shaking hands and communal eating, especially at funerals or burials.

Myths about typhoid

Myth: You can tell if someone’s infected.
Fact: Someone can look healthy and still be infected with the disease.

Myth: You no longer have the disease when you start to feel better.
Fact: You may still be infected even if you start to feel better.

Myth: I’m immune to the disease because I’ve had a typhoid vaccination.
Fact: The jab won’t give you 100% immunity, so it’s important to stay vigilant.