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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What is typhoid?

Typhoid (also called typhoid fever) is a life-threatening disease caused by bacteria. It is usually spread through food or water contaminated with bowel movement from an infected person. It can also be spread through close contact with an infected person.

What are the signs and symptoms of typhoid?

Signs and symptoms start 6 to 30 days after infection and develop in stages over about 3 weeks:

  • Fever of 103°F to 104°F (39°C to 40°C) that gets worse later in the day
  • A cough or sore throat
  • Weakness, fatigue, or a headache
  • Skin rash that has flat, red spots
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your groin
  • Stomach pain or loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation, rapid weight loss, and distention of your abdomen
  • Delirium (confusion and lack of awareness) or hallucinations
  • Lying motionless with your eyes half open

How is typhoid diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they started. Tell him or her about any recent travels. Tell him or her the countries you visited, when you went, and how long you stayed. Also tell him or her about food you ate and any untreated water you drank.

  • Blood tests may be used to check for antibodies. If you are infected, antibodies will be produced by your body to fight the bacteria.
  • A bowel movement sample is tested for the bacteria that cause typhoid.
  • A bone marrow sample is tested for the bacteria that cause typhoid. This test is usually best at finding the bacteria. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about this test.
  • Antibiotics are given to fight a bacterial infection. It is important to take all of the antibiotics to make sure the infection is treated completely. Your healthcare provider will get bowel movement samples over time to check that treatment is working.

What can I do to manage typhoid?

Signs and symptoms may start to get better in about 4 weeks. You may still be infected even after treatment. This means you can pass the infection to others. Ask your healthcare provider about these and other ways to prevent spreading the bacteria until the infection is gone:

  • Ask about going back to work. Your healthcare provider may need to verify that you are no longer infected before you can work. He or she may need to do this if you handle food or work in certain care facilities.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Do not cook or serve food to anyone. Your risk for spreading the bacteria will increase if someone eats food you handled.
  • Clean surfaces often. Use a disinfecting wipe, a single-use sponge, or a cloth you can wash and reuse. Use disinfecting cleaners if you do not have wipes. You can create a disinfecting cleaner by mixing 1 part bleach with 10 parts water. In the kitchen, clean countertops, cooking surfaces, and the fronts and insides of the microwave and refrigerator. In the bathroom, clean the toilet, the area around the toilet, the sink, the area around the sink, and faucets. Clean surfaces in the person's room, such as a desk or dresser.
  • Do not share towels or similar items. Use specific towels, sheets, and eating utensils or cups. Do not let anyone else use these items. Wash the items often. Use soap and hot water. If any item is soiled, soak it in disinfectant solution before you wash it.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to prevent typhoid?

  • Ask about the typhoid vaccine. You can get the vaccine before you travel to a country where typhoid is common. You may need the vaccine if you handle typhoid bacteria or have contact with an infected person. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to get the vaccine and which vaccine you need. Even after you receive the vaccine, you will need to be careful about foods and drinks while you travel. You can still get typhoid even after you receive the vaccine.
  • Choose foods carefully when you travel. Do not eat food from street vendors. Refrigerate food, and only have pasteurized milk or dairy products. Do not eat raw fruits or vegetables. Only eat foods that are cooked and served hot. Avoid buffets. Always cook all food thoroughly, and eat food that is steaming hot.
  • Find safe water when you travel. Only drink water that has been treated. Ask for no ice in your drink, or only have ice made from treated water. Drink liquids from sealed or bottled containers. Drink bottled water instead of tap water. You can also boil water for 1 minute before you drink it. Carbonated drinks are safer than drinks that are not carbonated.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You do not respond when spoken to, or you seem confused or disoriented.
  • Your infant has a fever, diarrhea, or is not responsive.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your infant has sunken fontanels (soft spots), no tears when he or she cries, or fewer wet diapers than usual.
  • Your blood pressure suddenly goes very low, you are dizzy, and you see blood in your bowel movement.
  • You have severe abdominal pain and nausea, and you are vomiting.
  • You have severe diarrhea.
  • You are urinating little or not at all.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have constipation.
  • Your child is fussy or has feeding problems.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Treatment options

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