Typhoid fever is a life-threatening disease of the intestinal system caused by the typhoid bacillus, Salmonella typhosa, which lives only in humans who carry it in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. Typhoid fever is spread when the bacteria is "shed" by infected people who handle food or fluids without washing their hands, or when sewage carrying the bacteria contaminates water, milk, and other foods. Although relatively rare since the advent of vaccines and improvement of public sanitation (about 400 cases are reported annually in the United States, 70% of which are acquired through international travel), typhoid fever was once common and still arises in impoverished areas of the world where squalid conditions prevail and medical treatment is unavailable. Symptoms of the disease become evident within one to two weeks after infection and include sore throat, fever, headache, nausea, and loss of appetite, which are sometimes followed by the appearance of red spots on the chest and abdomen and, in severe cases, delirium and death. As the bacteria invade the intestines, they cause ulcerations and bleeding. This can lead to holes in the intestines and the bacteria can invade the bloodstream and sometimes spread to the bone marrow or spinal cord causing meningitis. The fever generally lasts three to four weeks and then subsides.
Treatment for typhoid includes cold sponge baths to lower the fever and plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. Antibiotics, such as chloramphenicol, are also effective.
One of the first clinical descriptions of typhoid fever was made by English physician Thomas Willis (1621-1675). French physician Pierre-Fidèle Bretonneau (1778-1862) was the first to accurately describe the progression of the disease in 1819. He went on to detail a typhoid epidemic in France, and reported that the disease was transmitted by contact with other contaminated people. Bretonneau also distinguished between typhoid fever...
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