Typhoid fever is an illness that is caused by bacteria. The symptoms include a diminished appetite, headache, bodily aches and pains, fever, fatigue, and diarrhea. Fever can reach 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C) in those with this illness. The bacteria has an incubation period that can last for up to two weeks, and once symptoms are evident, they may last up to four to six weeks.
Some people with typhoid may suffer from chest congestion, but it does not affect everyone who develops the illness. Many people suffer from pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. After the second or third week of illness, a patient without further complications may experience some improvement in the symptoms of typhoid; about one in ten will have recurring symptoms, even after noticing improvement for a week or two. Interestingly, those who have been treated with antibiotics may be more likely to have relapses than others.
Salmonella typhi typically causes typhoid, although sometimes Salmonella paratyphi causes symptoms as well. Illness caused by the S. paratyphi bacterium is often less severe, however. Humans are typically exposed to these bacteria through food or water that are contaminated by the stool of someone who is carrying or infected with the disease.
Sometimes, the symptoms of typhoid are so mild that the disease isn't diagnosed or really even noted. Some people who have mild cases go on to become carriers. This means they are not noticeably ill from it but can pass the disease on to others for years after their initial exposure. About 3% to 5% of those with typhoid become carriers.
The main treatment for typhoid is antibiotic medication, which has significantly increased the rate of survival from the disease. Today, about 1% to 2% of people with this illness die; years ago, around to 20% of patients died. In fact, treatment with antibiotics often helps patients to start feeling better in just a couple of days and recover in a week to ten days instead of weeks later. Even those who have become chronic carriers need not be stuck with that status indefinitely. Prolonged antibiotic treatment and/or removal of the gallbladder, the organ in which chronic infection often takes up residence, may relieve them of their carrier status.