Typhoid Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

By September 23, 2023 December 7th, 2023 No Comments
Typhoid Fever

A fever is never just a fever when it comes to typhoid. This bacterial infection is stealthy, advancing quietly yet potentially leading to serious complications.

Are you aware of the early signs that can help in diagnosing typhoid fever promptly? Understanding the symptoms, causes, and the latest treatment options can be your safety net.

Join us on the Ruby Hall Clinic blog as we dissect the vital aspects of typhoid fever, equipping you with the knowledge to recognize and react wisely to this ailment. Stay informed and protect yourself and your loved ones. Stay tuned.

What is Typhoid?

Typhoid fever is a dangerous illness. It’s triggered by the Salmonella Typhi bacterium. The disease spreads mainly through consuming contaminated food or water. Shockingly, in 2019 alone, there were up to 20 million cases and 161,000 deaths globally. It is especially prevalent in low and middle-income nations.

This fever has a long history. It has been with humanity since the times of ancient Greece. The term ‘typhoid’ originates from the Greek word “typhos”, illustrating the hazy mental state of the patients.

The 19th century saw many outbreaks in Europe and North America. Then, people realised the link between typhoid and contaminated consumables.

In 1880, a significant discovery was made. Karl Joseph Eberth identified Salmonella Typhi as the culprit behind the disease. Following this, chlorination of water and milk began. Improved sanitation came into effect, reducing typhoid cases in industrialised nations drastically.

Sadly, the disease remains a threat in areas with inadequate sanitation and clean water supply. 

Common Symptoms of Typhoid Fever

The symptoms of typhoid fever are gradual onset of fever, along with gastrointestinal symptoms. The incubation period ranges from 3 days to over 60 days, and people can be infectious to others from onset of symptoms onwards.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • High fever ranging from 103°F to 104°F
  • Headache and body ache
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Enlarged spleen and liver
  • Rose coloured spots on the chest and abdomen in some patients
  • Delirium and confusion in severe cases

The classic symptom described in typhoid is a steadily rising fever with relative bradycardia, where the pulse rate is slower than expected with high temperatures. Without treatment, the illness can last for 3 to 4 weeks.

Causes of Typhoid Fever Explained in Detail

Understanding the symptoms of typhoid fever can be your first line of defence against this dangerous disease. Let’s take a closer look at each symptom:

High fever

A persistent high fever is a classic sign of typhoid fever. It often starts mild and worsens gradually, potentially reaching up to 104°F (40°C). It’s vital to monitor the fever and seek medical help if it persists.


Headaches in typhoid fever can be severe. They are typically accompanied by other symptoms such as fever and muscle aches. It’s a debilitating symptom that hinders daily activities.

Weakness and fatigue

Patients often experience a pronounced feeling of weakness and fatigue. The energy levels dip significantly, making even small tasks seem strenuous. Being attentive to these signs can guide timely medical consultation.

Abdominal pain and discomfort

Abdominal issues are prevalent in typhoid patients. They might experience pain and discomfort in the abdominal region, signaling a disturbance in the digestive system. It’s essential to not ignore this symptom, as it can lead to more severe complications.

Diarrhoea or constipation

Individuals with typhoid fever might face irregular bowel movements. They could suffer from either diarrhoea or constipation. These symptoms point to the gastrointestinal distress caused by the infection.


A rash is a less common but significant symptom. It appears as rose-colored spots, typically on the neck and abdomen. Although not everyone experiences this, being alert to such changes in the skin can be crucial.

Being knowledgeable about these symptoms facilitates early detection and treatment. 

Tests for Diagnosing Typhoid Fever: Blood Culture vs. Widal Test

Diagnosing typhoid fever accurately is crucial for effective treatment. The two primary tests used for diagnosis are Blood Culture and the Widal Test. Understanding the differences between these tests and the common misconceptions about them can help individuals better navigate their healthcare options.

Blood Culture

Blood Culture is considered the gold standard for diagnosing typhoid fever. In this test, a sample of the patient’s blood is cultured in a laboratory to identify the presence of Salmonella Typhi, the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever. If the bacteria are present, they will multiply and can be detected. The Blood Culture test is highly accurate and can provide a definitive diagnosis, but it may take several days for the results to be available.


  • Accuracy: High accuracy in identifying the presence of Salmonella Typhi.
  • Sensitivity: Can detect typhoid fever even in the early stages of the disease.


  • Time-Consuming: It may take several days to get the results.
  • Cost: Typically more expensive than the Widal Test.

Widal Test

The Widal Test is a serological test that detects the presence of antibodies or antigens in the blood that the body produces in response to typhoid bacteria. It’s a quicker and less expensive test compared to Blood Culture, but it has its limitations. 

This test is done by card and Elisa technique. Card test gives results in 30 minutes and Elisa test after 24 hrs. Elisa is more accurate for treatment. This test is positive after 7 days of infection and the titers stay raised for a long time after the treatment is over.

The Widal Test can sometimes give false-positive or false-negative results, especially if performed in the early stages of the disease or in individuals who have been previously vaccinated against typhoid.


  • Speed: Results are typically available faster compared to Blood Culture.
  • Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive than Blood Culture.


  • Accuracy: Less accurate than Blood Culture, with a higher possibility of false results.
  • Sensitivity: May not detect the disease in its early stages or in vaccinated individuals.

Common Misconception

A common misconception is that the Widal Test alone is sufficient for diagnosing typhoid fever. Given its limitations in accuracy and sensitivity, relying solely on the Widal Test can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. It’s essential for healthcare providers to consider the patient’s clinical history, symptoms, and other factors alongside test results for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment Options for Typhoid Fever

To effectively prevent and tackle typhoid fever, it is crucial to understand its various causes. Let’s delve into them one by one:

Bacterial infection (Salmonella Typhi)

At the core of typhoid fever is the bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi. This bacterium enters the body and multiplies, leading to the onset of the illness. It is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated items, showcasing the importance of hygiene in prevention.

Contaminated food and water

Consuming food and water that have come into contact with the feces or urine of an infected person is a common way the disease spreads. It is a vital reason to ensure the safety of what we consume, to maintain health and well-being.

Poor sanitation and hygiene

Inadequate sanitation and a lack of personal hygiene can be breeding grounds for Salmonella Typhi. Unhygienic practices, like not washing hands properly before eating or preparing food, can lead to the spread of the disease, making hygiene education imperative.

Travel to high-risk areas

Traveling to regions where typhoid fever is endemic puts individuals at a heightened risk of contracting the disease. Being cautious about the water and food you consume in such areas can be a protective shield.

Understanding the different causes equips us with the knowledge to take appropriate preventive measures.

Prevention of Typhoid Fever

In the battle against typhoid fever, prevention is your strongest weapon. Let’s break down the preventive measures you can take to shield yourself and your community:


Getting vaccinated is the first step. Typhoid vaccines are effective in preventing the disease. It is especially crucial if you are travelling to high-risk areas.

Safe food and water

Always opt for safe food and water. Cook food thoroughly and prefer bottled or boiled water to avoid any infection. It’s a simple yet effective way to keep typhoid at bay.

Personal hygiene

Maintaining high personal hygiene is non-negotiable. Regular hand washing, particularly before meals and after using the restroom, is vital. It’s a basic step with a significant impact.


Ensuring proper sanitation in your surroundings is key. Dispose of waste properly and promote cleanliness to create a barrier against the bacteria causing typhoid.


Stay informed and spread awareness. Understanding the disease and educating others creates a ripple effect in preventing typhoid fever in the community.


As we conclude this blog post, we reflect on the persistent threat of typhoid fever, notably in regions with compromised hygiene and limited access to pure water.

At our Hinjawadi clinic, we echo the global urgency for enhanced vaccination coverage. This is crucial alongside improving sanitation and infrastructure, which can be a stronghold against this disease. Moreover, we stress the importance of vigilant surveillance to track and curb resistant strains of the bacteria.

We stand in solidarity with the global movements encouraging safe water and sanitation. These are pivotal steps outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, promising a positive shift in typhoid control globally.

Thank you for reading this entire blog post. Let’s continue to foster well-informed communities, championing health and safety together. Stay tuned for more insights and remember, prevention starts with awareness. Let’s walk this path of knowledge, hand in hand.

Chief Operating Officer at Grant Medical Foundation, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune

Dr. Sudheer Rai
Dr. Sudheer Rai

Chief Operating Officer at Grant Medical Foundation, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune

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