Typhoid Fever: Everything You Need To Know

*Science geek alert! This post is written purely out of interest. Microbiology was one of my favourite subjects back in University.*

With the recent typhoid fever outbreak in Malaysia, I thought I’d provide some totally useless information that might not save your life. Of course, I threw in some relevant info as well.

The Useless BUT Interesting typhoid-mary-1

Typhoid Mary

  • Mary Mallone AKA Typhoid Mary was the first person in the US to be identified as a healthy carrier of the bacteria
  • Between 1896-1906, she worked as a cook in 7 homes around NYC. During that time, there were 28 cases of typhoid fever in those homes
  • She was arrested and sent to a hospital for isolation purposes
  • She was found to be shedding large amounts of the bacteria
  • She was released and she pledged to never cook or serve food again
  • She BROKE her promise, changed her name, cooked and evaded capture for 5 years
  • Caught and imprisoned for 23 years until her death
  • TOTAL DAMAGE: She was responsible for 10 outbreaks, 53 cases and 3 deaths

The Not So Useless

Salmonella Typhi

Salmonella Typhi is the bacterium that causes typhoid fever. It is a Gram negative (reaction to Gram stain test to differentiate bacteria by their physical and chemical properties of their cell walls), rod shaped, non-sporing and motile bacterium.salmonella

The nomenclature for bacteria is such that it begins with the GENUS followed by the SPECIES. Both are italicised with the species beginning in lower case, ie: Lactobacillus acidophilus.

The exception exists for Salmonella Typhi because ‘Typhi’ is the serotype. There are many species, subspecies and serotypes for Salmonella that it took scientist a long time to come to a consensus.

Typhoid Fever


  • Contaminated food or water with faecal particles (Basically, SHIT)

Prevention is always better than treatment. Knowing how the bacteria is transmitted can help you escape (at best) infection. Humans are the only known reservoir for the bacteria.

Unfortunately, there are healthy chronic carriers (10-15% of patients) in our midst. This means that although they have recovered from typhoid fever, they continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill and healthy carriers shed the bacteria in their faeces.

What you can do:

According to the CDC: “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it”

  • Drink BOILED water and consume COOKED (HOT) foodIMG_8727
  • Wash your hands, keep them clean
  • Get vaccinated (effective in 67% of cases)

What the authorities can do:

  • Ensure sewage systems are fully functioning
  • Chlorination of water
  • Find the SOURCE
  • Carriers under surveillance


  • Headache
  • Malaise (general body weakness)
  • Myalgia (pain in the muscles)
  • High Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal discomfort


  • The bacteria attaches to the intestinal lining
  • Burrows through the intestinal wall
  • Enters bloodstream
  • Endotoxin released when the bacteria is lysed and can lead to shock and high fever
  • Incubation period can be long, between 1-3 weeks

Untreated mortality rate 15-20%

Early treatment reduces rate by 1%


Drug of choice is Ceftriaxone although there are some resistance

Alternatives: Chloramphenicol and Ampicillin


2 thoughts on “Typhoid Fever: Everything You Need To Know

  1. Hello Adele!

    This was really helpful. People really have to be knowledgeable about these things for them possibly avoid this disease or do the appropriate actions to be done. Prevention is indeed better than treatment.

    Thank you for this post!

    – Benj

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