Typhoid Fever (Signs and Symptoms)

Typhoid fever, also known simply as typhoid, is a bacterial infection due to specific type of salmonella that causes symptoms.

Symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and usually begin 6 to 30 days after exposure. Often there is a gradual onset of a high fever over several days.

This is commonly accompanied by weakness, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, and mild vomiting. Some people develop a skin rash with rose colored spots. In severe cases, people may experience confusion.

Without treatment, symptoms may last weeks or months. Diarrhea is uncommon. Other people may carry the bacterium without being affected; however, they are still able to spread the disease to others. Typhoid fever is a type of enteric fever, along with paratyphoid fever.

Signs and symptoms

Classically, the progression of untreated typhoid fever is divided into four distinct stages, each lasting about a week. Over the course of these stages, the patient becomes exhausted and emaciated.

Read also: 5 early symptoms of cancer.

In the first week, the body temperature rises slowly, and fever fluctuations are seen with relative bradycardia (Faget sign), malaise, headache, and cough. A bloody nose (epistaxis) is seen in a quarter of cases, and abdominal pain is also possible. A decrease in the number of circulating white blood cells (leukopenia) occurs with eosinopenia and relative lymphocytosis; blood cultures are positive for Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica or S. paratyphi. The Widal testis usually negative in the first week.

In the second week, the person is often too tired to get up, with high fever in plateau around 40 °C (104 °F) and bradycardia (sphygmothermic dissociation or Faget sign), classically with a dicrotic pulse wave. Deliriumcan occur, where the patient is often calm, but sometimes becomes agitated. This delirium has lead to typhoid receiving the nickname “nervous fever”. Rose spots appear on the lower chest and abdomen in around a third of patients. Rhonchi(rattling breathing sounds) are heard in the base of the lungs. The abdomen is distended and painful in the right lower quadrant, where a rumbling sound can be heard. Diarrhea can occur in this stage, but constipation is also common. The spleen and liver are enlarged (hepatosplenomegaly) and tender, and liver transaminases are elevated. The Widal test is strongly positive, with antiO and antiH antibodies. Blood cultures are sometimes still positive at this stage. The major symptom of this fever is that it usually rises in the afternoon up to the first and second week.

In the third week of typhoid fever, a number of complications can occur:

Intestinal haemorrhage due to bleeding in congested Peyer’s patches occurs; this can be very serious, but is usually not fatal.

Intestinal perforation in the distal ileum is a very serious complication and is frequently fatal. It may occur without alarming symptoms until septicaemia or diffuse peritonitissets in.

Encephalitis

Respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and acute bronchitis

Neuropsychiatric symptoms (described as “muttering delirium” or “coma vigil”), with picking at bedclothes or imaginary objects

Metastatic abscesses, cholecystitis, endocarditis, and osteitis

The fever is still very high and oscillates very little over 24 hours. Dehydration ensues, and the patient is delirious (typhoid state). One-third of affected individuals develop a macular rash on the trunk.

Platelet count goes down slowly and the risk of bleeding rises.

By the end of third week, the fever starts subsiding.

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