Typhoid fever – What you should know

photo: Corbis.com

According to the latest update released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), around 100 cases are reported in South Africa each year.

“Investigations have revealed that these cases, and others occurring in [Gauteng], are not linked to each other – except for the two siblings who both contracted typhoid fever. Because there is no link to a common exposure, these cases are sporadic and do not represent an outbreak,” the institute reassured in its statement.

Chief medical officer of ER24, Doctor Robyn Holgate, stated that while there is no current concern for the spread of this illness, people are still urged to familiarise themselves with how a person develops the illness and how it affects a person. “Typhoid is a serious bacterial infection usually caused by salmonella enterica serotype typhi,” said Holgate.

“Typhoid, also known as enteric fever, is contagious and is spread by either direct contact with the faeces or urine of somebody infected, or indirectly by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person,” Holgate continued.

She further stated that the spread may increase in situations where poor hygiene and sanitation conditions exist, although it could be spread by incidental ingestion of contaminated food, fruit or fluids.

“Humans are the only reservoir, hence a travel or recent contact history is critical in establishing whether typhoid fever is a likely diagnosis or not, as there are many other organisms which may cause an enteric-type illness or gastro-enteritis.”

Incubation of the bacterial infection is usually 10 to 14 days, but can sometimes take up to 21 days before symptoms become highly visible. In the initial stages, these symptoms may include high fevers, constipation, diarrhoea in younger patients, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, head and body aches, spot rashes on the chest and abdomen, fatigue and/or general malaise.

“We remind the public that typhoid fever occurs worldwide and we often experience outbreaks in developing countries. There is no need to panic. Although there is no current concern for the spread, it is always good to practice safe food and hand hygiene techniques to ensure avoidance of any enteric or gastrointestinal diseases.”

Details: www.nicd.ac.za

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