Diseases Home > Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever, which is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, is common in the developing world; however, only a few hundred cases occur annually in the United States. The life-threatening disease is spread when people accidentally consume the bacteria. When treatment is started early, the prognosis is good; however, 3 to 5 percent of people will continue to carry typhoid fever even after symptoms disappear.

What Is Typhoid Fever?

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. In the United States, about 400 cases occur each year, and 75 percent of these are acquired while traveling internationally. Typhoid fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 21.5 million people each year.

What Causes It?

The cause of typhoid fever is an infection with the bacteria known as Salmonella typhi.

How Is Typhoid Fever Transmitted?

You can get typhoid fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding the Salmonella typhi bacteria or if sewage contaminated with the bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food.

Where Is It Common?

Typhoid fever is common in most parts of the world, except in industrialized regions, such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan. Risk is greatest within the Indian subcontinent and other developing countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Symptoms of Typhoid Fever

When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause typhoid fever, the bacteria begin to multiply and spread into the bloodstream. After 3 to 60 days, symptoms can occur. This period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is called the incubation period.
Symptoms of typhoid fever vary among individuals. Some will have mild symptoms, while others could have very serious symptoms, including death.
Common symptoms include:
  • Fever as high as 103° to 104°F (39° to 40°C)
  • Stomach pains
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Bloody nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Rash of flat, rose-colored spots.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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