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Typhoid outbreak in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG – What is typhoid fever, how is it transmitted and what are the symptoms?

A typhoid outbreak has been confirmed in Zimbabwe, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is trying to prevent the disease from entering South Africa.

According to the institute, awareness about the highly contagious disease needs to be raised among South Africans returning from Zimbabwe.

It said that while an outbreak of typhoid in South Africa is not anticipated, it is important that people with symptoms receive appropriate and early diagnosis and treatment.

Typhoid generally increases in January and February.

WATCH: How typhoid fever affects the body: 

What causes typhoid?

Typhoid is caused by the bacterium salmonella typhi. It is endemic in the southern African region and is spread from person-to-person by faecal-oral contamination, direct contact, or through ingestion of food or water contaminated with S. typhi.

Contaminated water sources create larger outbreaks of typhoid, while food contaminated by persons who have typhoid or who are carriers or recovering from typhoid will cause smaller, localised cases, usually among family or friends.

How to prevent getting typhoid:

Fruit that can be peeled (e.g. bananas, oranges or mangos) or meat that is well cooked is generally safe.

Typhoid prevention measures include hand washing after toilet use and before preparing food, consumption of safe water and good sanitation.

Symptoms of typhoid fever:

Symptoms of typhoid include fever, headache, chills and sweats, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea. People with these symptoms should go for testing with a blood culture. Typhoid responds well to treatment with antibiotics.

The symptoms of typhoid overlap with a number of other infectious diseases in the region at this time of year, especially malaria.

Malaria must be considered first in all persons residing in or with a history of travel to malaria transmission areas who present with fever or a flu-like illness. Since malaria is rapidly progressive but responds well to early treatment, malaria blood tests must be done as a matter of urgency and treatment provided rapidly.

If you suspect you or someone you know might have typhoid fever, consult your local clinic or healthcare provider.

Early last year, several South Africans contracted typhoid fever and one died in a Johannesburg-based hospital. The Gauteng Department of Health said the patient died due of kidney ailments. The institute also reiterated that there was no outbreak at that time. It has said that South Africa records at least 100 cases of typhoid fever every year.

Details: www.nicd.ac.za

Read: Typhoid fever – What you should know

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