Many years back there was a birthday party that served the infamous ‘dirty ice cream’ that was a staple in most Filipino parties and events. Dirty ice cream is just a term isn’t it? It isn’t exactly dirty, isn’t it? However in this case, it actually was. I was admitted to the hospital for the case of Typhoid fever.
What is Typhoid?
Typhoid is an acute illness associated with fever that one could get through contaminated food or water and is caused by Salmonellae typhi bacteria. It is transmitted from person to person through the fecal-oral route where a person with poor hand or body hygiene passes the infection when handling food or water (which happened in the case of my dirty ice cream incident). Approximately 3% – 5% of patients become carriers of the bacteria after the illness and can potentially infect others.
Symptoms of typhoid appear 1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the bacteria. These could include lasting high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headache and loss of appetite. Some patients could also experience constipation and have a rash.
Typhoid however is rare in industrial countries but continues to be a significant public health issue in developing countries, that includes the Philippines. The bacteria are present in many Southeast Asian countries as well as in Africa, Central and South America, and Western Pacific countries where there is poor water and sewage sanitation.
Who are at risk?
IT. CAN. BE. YOU.
Especially for us living in a developing country, our food choices and our hygiene could always lead us into this dreaded disease or illness. Travelers are also at risk especially those who are travelling to countries who have Typhoid as an epidemic; especially long-time travelers, adventure travelers, humanitarian workers, and those visiting friends and family in areas with poor sanitation.
How do you prevent it?
For travelers going to these endemic areas, consult your doctor or any health-care professional and discuss your best options and if you need to get your vaccination. There are currently two types of vaccines available and those are: the inactivated injectable vaccine (lasting 2-3 years) and the live attenuated oral vaccine (lasting 5-7 years). Although Typhoid fever vaccines do not provide 100% protection, they will reduce the severity of the illness.
Good hygiene is key. Remember that prevention is always better than cure. So wash your hands thoroughly and properly especially when handling food because not only will you, yourself be infected but you can also infect other people around you including those you love. Also, drink only purified water and eat food that you know have been prepared and cooked well.
Boil it, Cook it, Peel it or Forget it!
With these simple precautionary measures and newly found awareness for Typhoid fever and all its seriousness, hopefully starting with our home country, there will be less counts of people getting this illness. Let’s stay clean, well and healthy! Be Typhoid free!
Balentine, J.R., DO, FACEP. (2015, October 28). Typhoid Fever. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/typhoid_fever/article.htm.
(2013, May 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveler’s Health: Typhoid Fever. Retrieved from https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/typhoid.
Country Health Advice Philippines. Recommended Vaccinations. Retrieved from https://www.iamat.org/country/philippines/risk/typhoid-fever.