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Typhoid Fever

What Are the Symptoms of Typhoid Fever?

The incubation period is usually 1-2 weeks, and the duration of the illness is about 3-4 weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Headaches
  • Generalized aches and pains
  • Fever as high as 104 degrees Farenheit
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea

Chest congestion develops in many people, and abdominal pain and discomfort are common. The fever becomes constant. Improvement occurs in the third and fourth week in those without complications. About 10% of people have recurrent symptoms after feeling better for one to two weeks. Relapses are actually more common in individuals treated with antibiotics.

How Is Typhoid Fever Treated?

Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics which kill the Salmonella bacteria. Prior to the use of antibiotics, the fatality rate was 20%. Death occurred from overwhelming infection, pneumonia, intestinal bleeding, or intestinal perforation. With antibiotics and supportive care, mortality has been reduced to 1%-2%. With appropriate antibiotic therapy, there is usually improvement within one to two days and recovery within seven to 10 days.

Several antibiotics are effective for the treatment of typhoid fever. Chloramphenicol was the original drug of choice for many years. Because of rare serious side effects, chloramphenicol has been replaced by other effective antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics is guided by identifying the geographic region where the infection was contracted (certain strains from South America show a significant resistance to some antibiotics.) If relapses occur, patients are retreated with antibiotics.

Those who become chronically ill (about 3%-5% of those infected), can be treated with prolonged antibiotics. Often, removal of the gallbladder, the site of chronic infection, will provide a cure.

For those traveling to high-risk areas, vaccines are now available.

Typhoid Fever At A Glance

  • Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonellae typhi bacteria.
  • Typhoid fever is contracted by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.
  • Diagnosis of typhoid fever is made when the Salmonella bacteria are detected with a stool culture.
  • Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics.
  • Typhoid fever symptoms are poor appetite, headaches, generalized aches and pains, fever, and lethargy.
  • Approximately 3%-5% of patients become carriers of the bacteria after the acute illness.

WebMD Medical Reference from MedicineNet

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on January 31, 2015
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