Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Complications & Prevention (2023)

Typhoid definition

Typhoid or typhoid fever, also called enteric fever, a fatal infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi (Enterobacteriaceae family). This multi systemic disease has historically been a burden for public health, particularly in underdeveloped nations. The typhoid virus is very contagious and can spread through the infected person's faeces or, less frequently, through urine.

Typhoid fever is one of the main causes of mortality and morbidity in overpopulated and unhygienic areas, despite substantial research and public health initiatives. According to WHO (World Health Organization), Typhoid affects around 2.6 crore people yearly, resulting in 2,15,000 deaths worldwide. Children are especially vulnerable to typhoid in places with the unavailability of safe drinking water and sanitation.

Typhoid causes

Typhoid fever causes are more common in locations with overcrowding, social chaos, and inadequate sanitation, as Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (Salmonella typhi) spreads through the faecal-oral route via contaminated water, undercooked foods, and fomites (objects that carry infection) of infected patients.

Since humans are its only host, typhoid spreads from one infected person to another or via carriers such as houseflies or typhoid carriers (typhoid recovers), which carry bacteria in their bodies.

Salmonella typhi (S. typhi) is usually released into the faeces (rarely in urine) of the diseased or infected person and spreads by one of the following:

  • Unhygienic practise (unclean hands) of an infected person after using the washroom and preparing food without washing hands, shaking hands with healthy persons, or touching areas where a healthy person can access.
  • Practise defecating in open areas where carriers (houseflies) aid in transferring the disease-causing organism from the faeces to the consumables or eatables.
  • Infectious human faeces can contaminate water sources in areas with poor sanitation. Typhoid fever can be contracted by drinking or consuming food washed with contaminated water.

The other methods by which typhoid spreads are:

  • Consuming seafood that has been exposed to contaminated water or human waste
  • Consuming uncooked vegetables that have been fertilised with human waste
  • Sexual contact (anal) with Salmonella typhi bacteria carrier

Pathogenesis of typhoid

Salmonella bacteria invade the small intestine for a certain time (temporarily) and enter the bloodstream after being ingested through contaminated food or water. These are carried by white blood cells to the spleen, liver and bone marrow, where the bacteria grow and are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream.

At this point, fever and other symptoms start appearing in infected patients. Through the bloodstream, Salmonella invades the biliary system, gallbladder, and lymphatic tissue of the bowel and quickly multiplies in large numbers. These bacteria are then detected in faeces samples after they have entered the intestines.

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Typhoid stages

There are four stages of typhoid fever, and each step might last for one week. The typhoid incubation period usually takes 7–14 days after ingestion of S. typhi. The stages are as follows:

  1. First stage
  2. Second stage
  3. Third stage
  4. Fourth stage

First stage: The patient exhibits some early typhoid symptoms during this stage (first week), such as abdominal pain (right upper), difficult-to-pass stools, dry cough, delirium, stupor, malaise and dull headache. Each day, the temperature rises and then falls by the following morning. Over time, the temperature gradually increases.

Second stage: In this stage (second week), there will be a progression of first-stage symptoms, such as

  • Body temperature rises to 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Abdominal swelling
  • The appearance of rose spots on the chest, back and abdomen might resolve in 2-5 days

Third stage: This is the serious stage, where the patient may experience the following

  • Decreases in weight
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva)
  • Tachypnea (increased breathing)
  • Increase in toxaemia (increased toxins in the blood)
  • Anorexia (reduced food intake)
  • Crackling sound from the base of the lungs
  • Severe abdominal distension
  • Liquid diarrhoea (foul, green-yellow)
  • Increase delirium's intensity
  • Bowel perforation and peritonitis can develop as a result of necrosis in Peyer's patches (tiny lymphoid organs located in the small intestine's wall).
  • Death may occur due to severe toxaemia, myocarditis or intestinal bleeding.

Fourth stage: Extremely high fever is the defining feature of this typhoid stage.

  • Over a few days, the fever, mental state, and abdominal discomfort gradually improved.
  • Patients who are not treated could develop intestinal and neurological issues.
  • Loss of weight and extreme weakness (may last for months)
  • Some patients with an asymptomatic carrier condition can continue transmitting the bacterium.

Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Complications & Prevention (1)

Symptoms of typhoid fever

Typhoid fever symptoms often appear within a week or two of being infected with the Salmonella typhi bacteria. With therapy, typhoid fever symptoms should begin to subside within 3–5 days. Untreated typhoid fever often worsens over the course of a few weeks and can lead to potentially fatal complications. The typhoid symptoms in kids are similar to those in adults.

Typhoid fever symptoms include:

  • Persistence increases in body temperature
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Difficult to pass stools (constipation)
  • Body pain
  • Headache
  • On a severe condition, the symptoms include:
  • Stomach pain
  • Loose stools (diarrhoea)
  • Skin rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Difficult to concentrate

Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Complications & Prevention (2)

Complications of typhoid fever

Typhoid complications affect roughly 10% of infected patients and typically manifest themselves by week 3. To prevent hospitalisation and mortality, typhoid fever must be diagnosed and treated promptly in the community. The absence of such might lead to the following typhoid complications:

  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of cardiac muscles)
  • Shock (inadequacy of blood volume)
  • Encephalopathy (brain disease)
  • Anaemia (reduced count of red blood cells)
  • Pneumonia (fluid accumulation in lungs)
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of gall bladder)
  • Kidney infections
  • Mycotic aneurysm (major blood vessels infection)
  • Serious typhoid complications include
  • Typhoid intestinal perforation (TIP)
  • Gastrointestinal haemorrhage

A typhoid intestinal perforation could be a life-threatening scenario, as the intestinal bacteria (present in the intestine) migrate into the stomach and infect the abdominal lining (the peritoneum), leading to inflammation of the abdomen (peritoneum). In this condition, the infection spreads into the blood, resulting in sepsis before spreading to other organs (multiple organ failure).

Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Complications & Prevention (3)

Risk factors of typhoid fever

Typhoid affects millions of individuals every year and poses a significant hazard globally. Instances are reported everywhere, and travellers from the outbreak regions are the main sources of spread.

  • Visiting relatives in typhoid-prone areas
  • Consuming fast foods in typhoid-prone areas
  • Spending time with a typhoid-infected person
  • Working as a clinical microbiologist handling Salmonella

Typhoid diagnosis

Patients who have been diseased for more than three days with a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms (pain, constipation, or diarrhoea) live in places with inadequate sanitation or access to clean drinking water, or who have travelled to endemic areas are at high risk. Typhoid fever diagnosis in the first week is challenging, although many laboratory procedures can help narrow down the possibilities.

The general physician (GP) will examine the patient's signs and symptoms and inquire about the patient's travel history, area of residence and hygiene status. Post that, the general physician may prescribe one of the following typhoid fever diagnostic tests (typhoid test) as:

  • Body fluid or tissue culture
  • Widal test
  • Skin snip test
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Assay
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)

Body fluid or tissue culture: The blood test for typhoid generally involves sample collection of the infected person's stool, bone marrow and blood culture test for typhoid detection. These samples will be cultured by providing them with necessary bacteria growth factors. The growth area will be examined under the microscope for the presence of Salmonella typhi.

  • Bone marrow test is considered as most standard one than blood and stool tests; however, it is the most painful and time taking procedure.
  • High-volume samples are needed for blood culture, which increases its effectiveness.
  • In the second and third weeks, stool cultures serve as diagnostic tests. The volume of stool samples collected and the severity of the sickness affects the sensitivity of the stool culture.

Widal test: The Widal test for typhoid was developed more than a century ago and is still among the most popular diagnostic tests in use today for typhoid detection, but it has severe limitations in terms of sensitivity and specificity. The Widal test finds agglutinating antibodies against Salmonella typhi’s O and H antigens. This test is suggested in the second week of infection when the level of the homologous antibodies in the serum is at its peak.

The test consists of the slide method or tube method, where the patient’s serum sample will be mixed with Salmonella typhi’s O and H antigens. If the patient is infected with Salmonella typhi, the homologous antibodies in the serum react with the O and H antigens, forming agglutination or lump. Typhoid infection is indicated by the Widal test, where the antibody titer range is more than or equal to 1:80 for antigen O and 1:160 titre for antigen H.

Skin snip test: It is a rare type of test where skin snip cultures taken from rose spots have yielded positive results.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Assay: Several DNA-based serotypes, including the H antigen gene and the O antigen gene, can be identified by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). However, sensitivities may be low due to low bacterial concentrations during bacteraemia.

Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA): Acute disease rarely benefits from ELISA's ability to detect antibodies to the capsular polysaccharide Vi antigens, while it may be useful for identifying carriers.

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Typhoid treatment

A course of antibiotic medication can typically successfully treat typhoid fever. The intensity, length, spread, and consequences of the disease all influence the typhoid fever treatment strategy. After examining diagnostic reports, and if the tests indicate the presence of Salmonella typhi at an early stage, the general physician might prescribe appropriate antibiotics (based on the sensitivity report) for one to two weeks. The patient's symptoms should improve (recover from symptoms) within three days of taking antibiotics.

Typhoid perforation surgery

Peritonitis frequently results from intestinal perforation, requiring immediate surgical care. In severe circumstances, Salmonella typhi infection might result in intestinal perforation, necessitating immediate surgery.

The surgical procedure includes closure of perforation with peritoneal draining (draining fluid from the peritoneal cavity). Patients with multiple perforations require small-bowel resection. The gallbladder will be removed if antibiotic treatment fails to eliminate the hepatobiliary carriage completely.

Surgical complications of typhoid fever:

The most common surgical complications include:

  • Intestinal perforation
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of gall bladder)
  • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone or bone marrow)
  • Abscesses

Home remedies for typhoid fever

The infection can typically be treated at home, but if it's serious, the patient might need to be admitted to the hospital. The following home remedies can aid in quick recovery from typhoid fever:

  • Consuming soluble fibre-rich fruits to curb diarrhoea
  • Consuming Ocimum sanctum (Tulasi) water for its wide antibacterial property
  • Consuming plenty of fluids to avoid electrolyte imbalance
  • Adhering to prescribed medication

Prevention of typhoid fever

The following can aid in preventing typhoid fever

  • Drinking safe and hygienic water
  • Washing hands thoroughly before initiation of cooking and eating
  • Timely vaccination
  • Goodhand hygiene practice in typhoid infected person

Typhoid Fever – Symptoms, Causes, Complications & Prevention (4)

Typhoid vaccine

Two vaccinations can prevent typhoid fever. Depending on the age, vaccines are administered.

  1. Live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine
  2. Inactivated (dead) vaccine

Live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine: It is consumed orally (by mouth) and given to children (over six years old) and adults. The total dose is four capsules; one capsule per day should be taken every alternate day. It should be swallowed an hour before meals with cold or lukewarm water. At least a week before travel, the last dose should be taken. For those who are at risk, a booster shot is required every five years. It's crucial to store vaccine capsules in a refrigerator (not frozen).

Inactivated (dead) vaccine: This is a typhoid vaccine for babies (age over two years), administered through injection (typhoid injection). One dose is advised at least two weeks before travel. For those who are continued to be at risk, repeated doses every two years are advised.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is typhoid contagious?

    Yes, typhoid is highly contagious, spreading through the unhygienic hands of an infected person (that contains traces of Salmonella) and through vectors like houseflies that carry bacteria and contaminate food and water sources. Consumption of these contaminated resources leads to typhoid infection.

  • What to eat in typhoid for fast recovery?

    Foods that are easily digestible are the recommended ones for faster recovery. Non-heavy and rich in soluble fibre (not high fibre), water, minerals and vitamins, such as bananas, apples, guavas, watermelon, boiled vegetables, low-fat dairy products, carbohydrates, proteins and oral rehydration solutions.

  • Which bacteria causes typhoid?

    Salmonella typhi bacteria cause typhoid fever. Typhoid-infected individuals can transfer this bacterium. This usually occurs when an infected person leaves the restroom without washing their hands. With this unhygienic practice, when an infected person touches food and water, it could become contaminated by bacteria.

  • What is the Difference between typhoid and paratyphoid?

    Typhoid:Salmonella typhi is the cause of typhoid and its associated symptoms, such as high fever, vomiting, loose bowels, etc. It is a highly prevalent and severe condition. ST1 and ST2 are the two types of Salmonella typhi subvariants.

    Paratyphoid:It is caused by Salmonella paratyphi, which causes high fever, headache, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, etc. It is a less prevalent and mild condition. Paratyphi A, Paratyphi B, &Paratyphi C are the subvariants of Salmonella paratyphi.

  • Is typhoid a symptom of corona?

    No, typhoid is not a symptom of the coronavirus, as both have different contamination sources. Typhoid is caused by Salmonella typhi (bacterium), whereas corona is caused by COVID-19 (virus) though both share common symptoms such as high fever and headache.

  • Can typhoid spread through cough?

    No, typhoid spread cannot happen through coughing or sneezing as it is not an air-born disease like the flu. It spreads through typhoid-infected patients' faeces, where the bacteria are passed and rarely in urine. One will be infected with typhoid when they contact bacteria through an infected person’s unhygienic washroom practice (not washing hands properly after using) or by preparing food or drinking water contaminated by Salmonella typhi.

  • How long does typhoid fever last after treatment?

    Typhoid fever symptoms often appear 1 to 2 weeks after a person contracting Salmonella typhi bacteria. Typhoid fever symptoms should subside within 3 to 5 days from the day of treatment.

    However, in some cases, the symptoms might revoke, and there will be a relapse (reoccurrence) of the condition within a week once the treatment is finished.

  • How to recover from typhoid weakness?

    Diet plays a pivotal role in recovery from typhoid weakness. During typhoid, there will be a loss of electrolytes and water from the body due to vomiting and diarrhoea.

    Therefore, a typhoid diet includes consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, bloating-free (without raffinose) vegetables, high water-containing fruits such as watermelons, and oral rehydration salts solution can aid in the management of electrolyte imbalance, thereby improving patient condition from typhoid weakness.

  • Is typhoid serious?

    Yes, typhoid can be serious if not diagnosed early and treated properly. It can spread throughout the body, harm numerous organs, and even be fatal without early treatment.

  • Does the typhoid vaccine cause fever in babies?

    Yes, fever can occur in babies after taking inactivated typhoid vaccine, which is not severe. In addition to this, headache, general discomfort, pain, and injection site swelling are the possible effects of inactivated typhoid vaccine in babies (more than two years or older).

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Department of General Medicine


What is the cause and prevention of typhoid fever? ›

Typhoid fever is common in places with poor sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water. Access to safe water and adequate sanitation, hygiene among food handlers and typhoid vaccination are all effective in preventing typhoid fever.

What is the main complication of typhoid fever? ›

The 2 most common complications in untreated typhoid fever are: internal bleeding in the digestive system. splitting (perforation) of a section of the digestive system or bowel, which spreads the infection to nearby tissue.

What are the symptoms and effects of typhoid fever? ›

Early symptoms include fever, general ill-feeling, and abdominal pain. High fever (103°F, or 39.5°C) or higher and severe diarrhea occur as the disease gets worse. Some people develop a rash called "rose spots," which are small red spots on the abdomen and chest.

What are the 5 causes of typhoid fever? ›

How the infection spreads
  • using a toilet contaminated with bacteria and touching your mouth before washing your hands.
  • eating seafood from a water source contaminated by infected poo or pee.
  • eating raw vegetables that have been fertilised with human waste.
  • contaminated milk products.

How do you treat typhoid fever? ›

What is the treatment for typhoid fever? Typhoid is treated with antibiotics. Some newer types of the bacteria are able to survive antibiotic treatments, so you'll be treated with different antibiotics depending on what type of typhoid you have and where you got sick. Paratyphoid fever is also treated with antibiotics.

How is typhoid fever transmitted? ›

Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever are transmitted commonly through the consumption of drinking water or food contaminated with the feces of people who have typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever or of people who are chronic carriers of the responsible bacteria.

What is the best cure for typhoid? ›

Antibiotic therapy is the only effective treatment for typhoid fever.

How long does typhoid last for? ›

With treatment, the symptoms of typhoid fever should quickly improve within 3 to 5 days. If typhoid fever isn't treated, it'll usually get worse over the course of a few weeks, and there's a significant risk of life-threatening complications developing.

What are the toxic symptoms of typhoid? ›

Symptoms of typhoid fever may include a sustained fever as high as 103 to 104 F (39 to 40 C), weakness, stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite.

Can typhoid go away on its own? ›

How is typhoid fever treated? 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.

What are three ways to prevent typhoid? ›

Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot and steaming. Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled. Lettuce can remain contaminated even after it is washed. Wash your hands with soap and water before eating.

Does typhoid affect the brain? ›

Typical symptoms of typhoid fever include stomach pain, fever and headaches. In some rarer cases, typhoid fever is responsible for affecting the brain causing serious neurological symptoms such as lack of muscle control and slurred speech. Treatment in these cases has a poor prognosis.

How is typhoid diagnosed? ›

A diagnosis of typhoid fever can usually be confirmed by analysing samples of blood, poo, or pee. These will be examined under a microscope for the Salmonella typhi bacteria that cause the condition. The bacteria aren't always detected the first time, so you may need to have a series of tests.

What is the starting stage of typhoid? ›

In this typhoid stage, the patient experiences some of the preliminary typhoid symptoms such as dry cough, indolence or headache. This may or may not be accompanied with fever. Even if fever occurs, your body temperature will not be much higher than normal.

Is typhoid serious? ›

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal.

What not to do if you have typhoid? ›

Avoid handling food.

Avoid preparing food for others until your health care provider says you're no longer contagious. If you work with food, you may need to take a test to show you aren't shedding typhoid bacteria. If you work in health care, you also may need to show you aren't shedding the bacteria.

Should I drink water in typhoid? ›

Best juices to drink during typhoid fever

Typhoid diet recommends staying hydrated especially because one has loose motions, vomiting and loss of appetite. One needs to ensure they are hydrating themselves well to recoup from the infection and also flush out bacteria from the body.

Is typhoid spread by coughing? ›

You can't catch it from people coughing or sneezing or by breathing in any droplets in the air. People who are infected with typhoid pass the bacteria in their faeces and occasionally in their urine. Others can become infected by sewage contamination of food or water.

Is typhoid contagious by touch? ›

You can get typhoid if you eat food or drink a beverage that has been touched by a person who is infected with the typhoid bacteria and has not washed their hands properly after going to the bathroom. Contamination can also occur when changing the nappy of a child with the infection.

Is typhoid a lifelong disease? ›

As long as a person still has typhoid bacteria in their feces, the infection can spread to others. Some people can carry the bacteria for months, and in some cases, indefinitely. About 4% of people with a typhoid infection become chronic carriers.

What are three ways of preventing the spread of typhoid fever? ›

Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot and steaming. Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled. Lettuce can remain contaminated even after it is washed. Wash your hands with soap and water before eating.

What is the best way to prevent the spread of typhoid? ›

  1. Wash your hands. Frequent hand-washing in hot, soapy water is the best way to control infection. ...
  2. Avoid using untreated water. Contaminated drinking water is a problem in areas where typhoid fever is common. ...
  3. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables. ...
  4. Choose hot foods. ...
  5. Know where the health care providers are.
Jan 28, 2023

How can I prevent typhoid fever at home? ›

In order to prevent typhoid fever you must drink clean water, keep your surroundings clean and practise good hygiene like wash your hands frequently, use alcohol-based sanitizers, avoid drinking untreated water, clean raw fruits and vegetables, eat hot foods and get vaccinated.

How can typhoid vaccine be prevented? ›

There are two vaccines to prevent typhoid fever. One is an inactivated (killed) vaccine and the other is a live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of typhoid vaccine is best for you. Inactivated typhoid vaccine is administered as an injection (shot).

What is the control and treatment of typhoid fever? ›

Antibiotic therapy is the only effective treatment for typhoid fever.
Antibiotics that may be given for typhoid fever are:
  • Fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin (Cipro), may be a first choice. ...
  • Cephalosporins. ...
  • Macrolides. ...
  • Carbapenems.
Jan 28, 2023

What kills typhoid bacteria? ›

Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics which kill the Salmonella bacteria. Prior to the use of antibiotics, the fatality rate was 20%.

How is typhoid mainly transmitted? ›

How are typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever spread? These diseases are spread through sewage contamination of food or water and through person-to-person contact.

Which fruits prevent typhoid? ›

Fruits contain water, essential minerals and vitamins. This is why they are essential to combat dehydration and give a quick dose of energy. Fruits particularly best for typhoid are those that are rich in water content such as watermelon, sweet melon, grapes, apricots etc.

Which fruit is good in typhoid? ›

Grapes and Watermelon

Easily digestible foods like watermelon and grapes are quite beneficial for the typhoid patient. Watermelons and grapes have a high amount of water and are easily digestible.

Can you recover from typhoid without medication? ›

Without treatment, typhoid fever may last a month or more and become very serious, even life-threatening. In most cases, the symptoms start to go away in the third and fourth weeks, as long as the disease doesn't cause any other health problems.

Can typhoid be cured completely? ›

Typhoid fever can usually be treated successfully with a course of antibiotic medicine. The infection can usually be treated at home, but you may need to be admitted to hospital if it's severe.

Can you get typhoid even if vaccinated? ›

Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotics do not always work because some typhoid bacteria have become resistant to them. This is why getting the vaccine is important. Like all vaccines, there's a chance that you will get typhoid fever even if you get vaccinated.


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