Throughout the world, around 17 million people get typhoid fever each year and out these, around 600,000 people die. In the US, the number of typhoid cases is less than 500 a year and majority of the people get the disease while traveling abroad.
Typhoid fever is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacterium which can be contracted by eating and/or drinking contaminated food and water. The bacterium is shed by infected people as well as people who are carrier via their feces. The infected feces finds it way into food and drinking water and thereby contaminating them with the bacterium. When this food or water is ingested by a person, he gets typhoid.
Typhoid fever has been around for centuries and with the discovery of antibiotics, the spread has been controlled to a certain extent. The drug that was earlier used to treat the disease was chloramphenicol but is no longer used due to serious side effects and the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In fact, in the developing world, antibiotic resistant bacteria are causing obstacles in the treatment of typhoid. As per recent studies, typhoid bacteria have also become resistant to ampicillin and trimethoprim-sulfomethoxazole.
In South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where typhoid fever is highly prevalent, there is insufficient data on typhoid fever and antibiotic resistant bacteria and this is making it very difficult for doctors to treat the disease. Of late it has been seen that Salmonella typhi bacterium is also becoming resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics.
No doubt researchers will have to come up with newer antibiotics to tackle typhoid fever and antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. Until that happens, it is important that you take care when traveling overseas. This means only drinking mineral water or eating food that is well cooked and piping hot.
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