Learn About Typhoid Fever

What is the definition of Typhoid Fever?

Typhoid fever is an infection that causes diarrhea and a rash. It is most commonly caused by bacteria called Salmonella typhi (S typhi).

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What are the alternative names for Typhoid Fever?

Enteric fever

What are the causes of Typhoid Fever?

S typhi is spread through contaminated food, drink, or water. If you eat or drink something that is contaminated with the bacteria, the bacteria enter your body. They travel into your intestines, and then into your blood. In the blood, they travel to your lymph nodes, gallbladder, liver, spleen, and other parts of the body.

Some people become carriers of S typhi and continue to release the bacteria in their stools for years, spreading the disease.

Typhoid fever is common in developing countries. Most cases in the United States are brought in from other countries where typhoid fever is common.

What are the symptoms 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.

Other symptoms that occur include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Chills
  • Agitation, confusion, delirium, seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Difficulty paying attention (attention deficit)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Severe fatigue
  • Slow, sluggish, weak feeling
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What are the current treatments for Typhoid Fever?

Fluids and electrolytes may be given by IV (into a vein) or you may be asked to drink water with electrolyte packets.

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria. There are increasing rates of antibiotic resistance throughout the world, so your provider will check current recommendations before choosing an antibiotic.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Typhoid Fever?

Symptoms usually improve in 2 to 4 weeks with treatment. The outcome is likely to be good with early treatment, but becomes poor if complications develop.

Symptoms may return if the treatment has not completely cured the infection.

What are the possible complications of Typhoid Fever?

Health problems that may develop include:

  • Intestinal hemorrhage (severe GI bleeding)
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Kidney failure
  • Peritonitis
When should I contact a medical professional for Typhoid Fever?

Contact your provider if you have any of the following:

  • You know you have been exposed to someone who has typhoid fever
  • You have been in an area where there are people who have typhoid fever and you develop symptoms of typhoid fever
  • You have had typhoid fever and the symptoms return
  • You develop severe abdominal pain, decreased urine output, or other new symptoms
How do I prevent Typhoid Fever?

A vaccine is recommended for travel outside of the United States to places where there is typhoid fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has information about where typhoid fever is common -- www.cdc.gov/typhoid-fever/index.html. Ask your provider if you should bring electrolyte packets in case you get sick.

When traveling, drink only boiled or bottled water and eat well-cooked food. Wash your hands thoroughly before eating.

Water treatment, waste disposal, and protecting the food supply from contamination are important public health measures. Carriers of typhoid must not be allowed to work as food handlers.

Salmonella typhi organism
Digestive system organs
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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: June 20, 2021
Published By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Andrews JR, Harris JB, Ryan ET. Typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, and typhoidal fevers. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 100.

Melia JMP, Sears CL. Infectious enteritis and proctocolitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 110.