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The Challenges with Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever, caused by Salmonella Typhi bacteria, poses a significant health risk worldwide. With symptoms ranging from persistent fever to abdominal pain and potentially fatal complications, understanding its transmission and prevention is paramount.
March 5, 2024    |    38 Views
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Typhoid fever and Its Symptoms

Typhoid fever is a potentially life-threatening illness, caused by the bacterium called Salmonella Typhi. This type of salmonella can affect anyone, but certain individuals are at a higher risk. People living in areas with poor sanitation, travellers visiting typhoid-endemic regions, and individuals working in close contact with carriers of the bacteria are particularly vulnerable. 

The disease can cause severe complications if left untreated and can even be fatal in some cases. Yes,  people can actually die because of Typhoid fever, though with the advancement of modern treatment, very few did because of it. Symptoms may vary from person to person,  but more commonly experienced symptoms of typhoid fever include:

  • Fever: Persistent high fever is a hallmark symptom of typhoid fever.

     

  • Headache: Many individuals experience severe headaches.

     

  • Abdominal pain: Stomach discomfort and abdominal cramps are common.

     

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired and weak is typical, often accompanied by a lack of energy.

     

  • Loss of appetite: Many infected individuals experience loss of appetite

     

  • Body aches: Muscular pain and general body soreness can occur.

     

  • Diarrhoea or constipation: Changes in bowel habits are common, with diarrhoea being more prevalent.

     

  • Rash: Some individuals may develop a rose-colored rash, particularly on the main parts of the body (chest, abdomen, and back)

How it Spread

Typhoid fever can spread through sewage contamination of food or water and through person-to-person contact. S.Typhi can house themselves in human’s blood and intestinal tract and can stay there for months in asymptomatic carrier cases. The spread is often the result of poor sanitation and personal cleaning habits.  If someone carrying the bacterium neglects washing their hands after using the restroom and subsequently handles food prepping, they can inadvertently transfer the bacteria onto the food, potentially leading to contamination and subsequent infection if the food is consumed. Similarly, they can also infect you just by being in close contact.

Regulatory Requirements and Compulsory Vaccination

In today’s bustling food industry, maintaining high standards of hygiene and safety is paramount. One crucial aspect often overlooked is the prevention of diseases spread through contaminated food. Under the Malaysian Food Act 1983 and Food Hygiene Regulation 2009, Typhoid Vaccination is made compulsory for all food and beverage handlers. This regulation reflects the Malaysian government’s commitment in ensuring the highest standards of food safety and protecting the health of consumers. It provides an infrastructure to control the hygiene and safety of food sold in the county. By requiring food handlers to receive the vaccine, authorities aim to prevent outbreaks of typhoid fever and minimize the risk of contamination in food establishments.

Wouldn’t All Bacteria Die When Cooked? So, What's the Fuss?

The concern with S.Typhi lies in its resiliency and its ability to survive even in high temperature environments, as well as in acidic conditions, making it more challenging to eradicate through cooking alone.

Moreover, contamination of food with the bacterium can occur after cooking, such as through improper handling or cross-contamination from infected surfaces or individuals. Therefore, while cooking can reduce the risk of S.Typhi  infection, it is still crucial to practice proper food handling, hygiene, and sanitation measures to prevent the spread of this bacterium.

Typhoid Vaccination - How it Work

Like other vaccinations, the Typhoid Injection vaccine works by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against Salmonella Typhi, thereby providing protection against infection. This vaccine is safe, effective, and has been proven to significantly reduce the incidence of typhoid fever. By ensuring that all food handlers are vaccinated, we can create a safer environment for both workers and consumers, reducing the likelihood of disease transmission and maintaining the integrity of our food supply chain.

The vaccine is also available in oral forms, other than the injectable form and they served their purpose just the same in terms of:

  • providing long-lasting protection against the disease. Depending on the type of vaccine administered, protection can last for several years or even a lifetime. This makes it an effective tool in preventing outbreaks and reducing the burden of typhoid fever.

  • reduce transmission within communities. By decreasing the number of people carrying and spreading the bacteria, vaccination plays a vital role in controlling typhoid outbreaks.

Who Should Consider Getting Vaccinated?

Consider getting vaccinated if you fall into any of the following categories:

  1. Travelers to Endemic Regions: Planning a trip to areas where typhoid fever is common, especially in developing countries with poor sanitation? Consult a healthcare professional at least two weeks before your departure for personalized advice on vaccination.

     

  2. Requirement due to work: Healthcare workers and laboratory workers may come into contact with individuals carrying typhoid, vaccination is strongly recommended to prevent accidental exposure and infections.

     

  3. Close Contacts of Carriers: Vaccination is advised to prevent transmission if you are living with or caring for someone with a known or suspected typhoid infection.

     

  4. Military Personnel: Ensure you are vaccinated as part of your pre-deployment preparation if you are deployed to regions with high rates of typhoid fever.

     

  5. Individuals with Weakened Immune Systems: Those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, or living with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of infections. Protect your health by getting vaccinated against typhoid.

In conclusion, Typhoid Vaccination is essential for preventing the spread of typhoid fever and ensuring food safety. Beyond cooking, comprehensive food safety practices are vital to protect public health. By following regulations and prioritizing vaccination, we create a safer environment for both food handlers and consumers. Investing in vaccination protects health and promotes societal well-being. Schedule staff vaccinations today to safeguard public health against typhoid fever.

References

Food handlers called to be safe, hygienic and typhoid-vaccinated. (n.d.). HEALTHCARE TODAY. https://healthcaretoday.com.my/food-handlers-called-to-be-safe-hygienic-and-typhoid-vaccinated.html Accessed date 15/02/2024

Typhoid. (2019, November 6). https://www.who.int/health-topics/typhoid#tab=tab_1

Van Camp RO, Shorman M. Typhoid vaccine. In: StatPearls [Internet].