Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection characterized by high fever, vomiting and diarrhea; it is common in developing countries with poor water and sanitation facilities.
Globally, the disease affects millions of people annually, mostly in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America, killing millions.
The disease is endemic -common- in Nigeria with huge socio-economic burden due to work and school absenteeism and also cost of medicare.
The bacterium that causes Typhoid can thrive in extreme temperatures-freezing temperatures and very hot and dry conditions, thus it survives in ice, frozen foods and dust.
Man is the reservoir of the agent and can continue to spread the disease even long after he has recovered from the illness and in a few unfortunate cases he can continue to spread it for life.
Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water. The agent is passed out in the stool of an infected person, it may also be present in his urine, spite or vomit.
Food can be contaminated by flies which can carry the agent from the stool of an infected person or by the hands of infected person while preparing food if not well washed after using the toilet.
Water can be contaminated by stool of an infected person if the source of drinking water is exposed where open defeacation is practiced in the absence of toilets.
Un-boiled milk if contaminated is also a means of spread.
Typhoid fever affects both males and females, most common between 5 and 18 years of age. It is uncommon in children under 2 years of age.
Finally, the disease can be prevented in the following ways:
Vaccines against Typhoid are available, both oral and injectable. The oral vaccine protects for about 2 years while the injection gives protection for about 5 years. Booster doses are therefore required every 2 or 5 years for the oral or injectable vaccine respectively. Vaccination is recommended when there is no source of safe drinking water or when traveling to areas where the disease is always present (endemic).
2. Personal hygiene
Poor personal hygiene helps the spread of Typhoid fever; hands contaminated by faeces or urine can be contaminate food or drinking water. Wash hands with water and soap after using the toilet and at the end of a day’s work
3. Boil all drinking water.
Ensure you boil all drinking water in order to kill any bacteria in it including the bacteria that cause Typhoid. If you can afford it, drink only bottled water.
4. Food hygiene
Cook food thoroughly, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly; vegetables are of the greatest concern in communities without toilets where open defeacation is the norm; faeces can be therefore washed over the growing vegetables during rains, in some places faeces is used for manure.
Therefore, you can easily contract Typhoid by eating poorly prepared vegetables.
Fruits picked from the ground have the same problems as vegetables; wash them thus: first with soap and water (scrub with sponge if need be), followed by water containing salt and lastly with plain safe drinking water.
5. Use of proper toilets
Avoid open defeacation, use proper toilets so that when it rains faeces is not washed into farmland and streams. Typhoid causing bacteria are in faeces and urine of the affected person or even a carrier of the disease.
6. Avoid common use of personal items
Avoid common use of personal items like towel and clothes; that is, do not share your personal things; you can contract Typhoid if the person sharing them with you has Typhoid.
7. Provision of safe drinking water.
The fastest means of spreading Typhoid fever infection is through contaminated water; this can be by contamination of streams by faecal matter or the contamination of piped water through broken pipes.
Consequently at community level, provision of safe drinking water is key in the battle against the disease.