Wash hands thoroughly to avoid typhoid fever

Velisha Thompson of the City of Joburg writes:

Typhoid fever, also called enteric fever or simply typhoid, is a systemic illness caused by a bacterial infection, salmonella enterica subspecies.

In South Africa, typhoid is a notifiable condition, as it has outbreak potential. Any person who ingests typhoid organisms, and who is not immune, can get typhoid.

Children get typhoid more frequently than adults. Because typhoid is spread by fecal-oral contact, or through contaminated food or water, persons who have typhoid may spread typhoid to others if sanitation is poor. Typhoid is endemic within South Africa, and sporadic cases are reported in all provinces every year. There is an ongoing risk of typhoid fever in any area where water quality and sanitation is not good.

Contamination of water supplies has resulted in numerous, large-scale outbreaks. For example, Delmas in Mpumalanga has experienced repeated outbreaks of typhoid, with about 1 000 cases in 1993 and about 400 suspected cases and three deaths in 2005. In Harare, Zimbabwe, a typhoid outbreak that began in 2012, associated with contaminated water sources, is ongoing. A number of South African cases are linked to this outbreak.

Typhoid is spread via fecal-oral transmission. Typhoid may be spread from person to person by direct contact, or through ingestion of contaminated food or water.

Typhoid fever is a systemic illness characterised by:

  • Fever that is intermittent during the first week but becomes sustained (lasting up to 48 hours), with headaches thereafter.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain or cramps, nausea and vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea.

Ciprofloxacin is the drug of choice for treatment of typhoid. The advantages of treatment with Ciprofloxacin include twice-daily dosing with rapid resolution of symptoms.

The three most effective methods of preventing typhoid are:

  • Adherence to strict handwashing with soap and water after using the toilet and before handling food
  • The provision of safe water and adequate sanitation
  • Patients with typhoid fever should pay strict attention to hand hygiene and should not be involved in food preparation until they have been shown to be free of infection.

Read: Typhoid fever – What you should know

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