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Typhoid: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, Risk Factors, Prevention, Diagnosis

Typhoid refers to a bacterial infection that arises as a result of exposure to Salmonella typhi bacteria. It is also known by the name of Typhoid Fever and Enteric Fever.

Typhoid affects approximately 5 million people across the globe annually and out of them around 300,000 succumb to this infection. Typhoid is seen more in the third world countries.

What is Typhoid?

What is Typhoid?

Typhoid is an acute illness associated with fever caused by the Salmonella enteric serotype Typhi bacteria. The bacteria are deposited in the food or water by a human carrier and are then spread to other people in the area.

Typhoid can be completely cured even though there re some strains of the bacteria which are becoming antibiotic resistant. If Typhoid is not treated on time, approximately 15% of the cases become fatal. However, if prompt treatment is given the mortality rate drops to less than a percent.

Causes Of Typhoid:

As mentioned earlier, typhoid is caused by bacteria S. typhi. Below are some of the ways these bacteria spread in humans.

Fecal-Oral Transmission Route:

The bacteria that cause typhoid, spread via contaminated water or foods and also occasionally through direct contact with an infected individual. The majority of people in industrialized countries get typhoid fever while travelling and spread the infection to others via the fecal-oral route.

This means, Salmonella typhi is eliminated from the body through the feces and at times urine of the affected individual. You can contract the typhoid infection if you eat food that is handled by someone who is infected with typhoid and who has not washed carefully after using the toilet.

Typhoid Carriers:

Some people, even after treatment with antibiotics, who recover from typhoid, continue to harbor the bacteria in their intestinal tracts or in their gall bladders, often for several years. These people are known as chronic carriers. They shed the S.typi bacteria in their feces and are capable of infecting others, although they themselves may have no more signs or symptoms of the disease

Risk Factors Of Getting Typhoid:

Typhoid is a serious worldwide threat, especially in the developing countries. It is endemic in India, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and many other regions. Children are at greater risk of getting typhoid, although they usually have milder symptoms than adults do.

In case you are living in a country where typhoid is rare, then you might be at a risk of getting the disease if;

  • You work in or travel to areas where typhoid is endemic
  • You work as a clinical microbiologist handling S.typhi bacteria
  • You have close contact with an infected person or who has been infected with typhoid recently.
  • You drink water that is contaminated by sewage that contains S.typhi.

Symptoms Of Typhoid:

The first symptoms of typhoid can be observed about a couple of weeks after the bacteria has infiltrated the body; however, sometimes it may take more than 4 weeks for the symptoms to be observed. This bacterial infection causes a persistent high fever up to 104 degree F and also severe fatigue.

Some of the other common symptoms of typhoid include frequent bouts of constipation, persistent cough, appetite loss, persistent headaches, stomach pain and sore throat.

Some uncommon symptoms of typhoid include rectal bleeding, diarrhea, delirium, pinkish colored spots in the chest or abdomen.

With administration of antibiotic treatments, these symptoms start to fade away within a week. However, lack of treatment causes the symptoms to worsen leading to fatal complications in the ensuing few weeks. Untreated typhoid causes perforation in the small intestines which eventually causes the bacteria to spread into the abdominal cavity causing a serious and potentially fatal condition called Peritonitis.

Other serious complications occur when the offending bacteria infiltrates the bloodstream resulting in another medical condition called Bacteremia. Through the blood, these bacteria can get to the lungs resulting in pneumonia. The bacteria can also infect the lining of brain resulting in a medical condition called meningitis. They can also infiltrate the bones causing Osteomyelitis. If the bacteria gets to the heart valves it may result in the development of endocarditis. Hepatitis and glomerulonephritis are some of the other complications that can occur as a result of typhoid.

Diagnosis For Typhoid:

Your physician first will do a thorough physical examination so as to look out for the symptoms and based on it, you will be advised for clinical tests. Below are some of the tests you will have to undergo for typhoid diagnosis.

  • CBC: Complete blood count or CBC is done if you are suffering from typhoid. In case you are infected with the bacteria S.typhi, your complete blood count will show an increased White blood cells or WBC count.
  • Blood Culture: During the early phase of typhoid, or in the first week of infection, blood culture is done that shows about S. typhi.
  • ELISA: ELISA is a urine test that is done to look for the bacteria causing typhoid.
  • Fluoroscent Antibody Study: Fluoroscent antibody study is one more test, where any substances that are specific to the bacterium, are looked for.
  • Platelet Count: Platelet count, is done to know if the person is affected with typhoid. In case of infection, the platelet count is usually low.
  • Stool Culture: Stool culture is done to determine the presence of the bacterium in the feces.

Treatments of Typhoid:

Frontline treatment for Typhoid is use of antibiotics that eliminate the bacteria causing the condition. With appropriate antibiotic treatment, there is usually improvement within 1 or 2 days and recovery occur within 7-10 days.

There are a lot of antibiotics that are known to be effective for treating typhoid. Chloramphenicol was the original drug of choice for several years. However, because of some rare serious side effects, chloramphenicol has been replaced by other effective antibiotics. Antibiotics like Ciproflaxin or Ceftriaxone are usually prescribed to kill the bacteria.

Apart from the antibiotic treatment, other treatments for typhoid include drinking lots of uncontaminated fluids so as to keep self hydrated, and taking diet that is rich with nutrients.

Prevention for Typhoid:

Below are some of the preventive measures you can follow so as to put yourself at minimal risk of getting typhoid.

  • Boil water before drinking to kill any bacteria that may be present. You can also use disinfectant tablets or liquids easily available in pharmacies.
  • Peel the skin of all fruits and vegetables prior to eating or cooking them.
  • Protect the food from flies and other insects.
  • Cook the food well before eating, especially meat.
  • Do not drink beverages or eat food from street vendors.
  • Be aware of the “dander foods” like salads, shellfish and raw fruits and vegetables

As of now, vaccinations for typhoid give about 50% protection from this infection for a period of at least 6-7 years, although this duration is variable depending on vaccine used. Your physician will determine the vaccine best suited for you.


So, now we are known to some of the causes, symptoms and treatments along with preventive measures for typhoid. In case you suspect of having the disease, then do consult your doctor immediately and take the necessary treatments as per the doctor’s advice.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Typhoid Fever: https://www.cdc.gov/typhoid-fever/index.html
  2. World Health Organization (WHO) – Typhoid Fever: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/typhoid
  3. Mayo Clinic – Typhoid Fever: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/typhoid-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20378661

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 19, 2023

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