Eradicate typhoid fever

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014


RECENTLY, it has come to our knowledge that Typhoid Fever is among the most prevalent communicable diseases in Northern Mindanao region based on the region’s Department of Health- Epidemiology statistics.

Know the basics

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection affecting the lower gastrointestinal tract.

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Caused by a virulent bacterium ‘Salmonella typhi’ (S. typhi), typhoid fever spreads its infection like a plague through human feces or waste.

However, the portal of entry is through the mouth.

Literatures share that once S. typhi enters the body, the human host activates his or her defenses through the immune system by inducing an inflammatory response that is manifested as fever to rid of the bacterium.

However, for some reasons, the body fails and this S. typhi travels into different body organs especially into the liver and spleen.

Fortunately, by then the human host is able to get rid of the bacterium once and for all.

But the time required to accomplish this combat against S. typhi takes two to three weeks.

In between this incubation period, the victim develops a high fever usually reaching 40 degrees Centigrade, continuous headache and diarrhea, which could lead to severe dehydration if medical attention is not sought. As a matter of fact, medical experts point out that it is this dehydration that must be controlled and is considered the most important factor for the morbidity and mortality outcomes of any diarrheal diseases.

Gerard Tortora, an expert in the field of microbiology explains, “in severe cases, which can be fatal, ulceration [sore area] and perforation [makes holes] of the intestinal wall can occur.”

Antibiotics like the third generation cephalosporins are the most effective treatment against Typhoid fever according to Tortora.

Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance is also a frequent problem, he shares.

An antibiotic resistance occurs whenever a bacterium such as S. typhi acquires immunity from a certain type of antibiotics that renders the latter ineffective in its job.

This usually occurs on patients who fail to complete the course of antibiotic therapy as prescribed by the physician.

For instance, if the doctor prescribes an antibiotic to be taken three times a day for five days but the patient fails to follow this, most likely the bacterium being targeted will develop resistance to it. In turn, the physician may want to prescribe another set of more aggressive and more expensive antibiotics for what could have been

managed by the first class of antibiotics had the patient only complied with the prescriptions.

He adds: “recovery from typhoid fever confers lifelong immunity.”

In the similar light, advances in medical technologies have made it possible for scientists to develop a vaccine against S. typhi.

Possible sources of Typhoid fever

Literatures maintain that S. typhi is exclusively a human pathogen.

However, certain strains of Salmonella are associated with foods like eggs and poultry products and animals like turtles.

Flies can also be a vector or vehicle for the S. typhi to lodge on food or drinks.

Being a predominantly human pathogen, S. typhi can be transferred from a contaminated person to a new victim by fecal-oral route.

Street foods that have questionable sanitary preparations can also be a medium for the oral-fecal mode of transmission of S. typhi.

If an infected person touches any of his proximate areas to his anal region and then touches the food he is preparing then this S. typhi is transmitted to the food possibly spreading the disease to the unsuspecting victim enticed by the palatable cooked food.

If you had been infected before and think that you can no longer pass this disease to other people then think again. Some literatures share that other post-typhoid victims turn out to be ‘chronic carriers,’ which means they harbor S.typhi in their bodies for an indefinite period of time. This implies as well that they could transmit this bacterium to other people if preventive measures are not practiced.

Lastly, Healthcare professionals and those who are nursing or caring for a loved one with typhoid fever can be a source of cross-infection, which means they can get the S.typhi or become potential carriers for others to be infected. Therefore, meticulous hand hygience should be practiced if caring for someone with typhoid fever.

How to prevent Typhoid Fever

1. Sanitary disposal of human feces

2. Fly control and screening to protect food

3. Avoid street foods

4. Completely cook poultry foods like eggs and chicken

5. Vaccination

6. Health education for the food handlers

7. Practice meticulous hand washing

(Additional sources: Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews in Microbiology;

Public Health Nursing in the Philippines; Basic Diet Therapy for

Filipinos)

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 13, 2014.

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