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Your Covid-19 questions answered

How can I tell if I have Covid-19 or typhoid fever?

In the Western Cape, the typhoid fever outbreaks are currently in the Cape Town Metro health district, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route. In the North West, the outbreak is in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district.
In the Western Cape, the typhoid fever outbreaks are currently in the Cape Town Metro health district, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route. In the North West, the outbreak is in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district.
Image: 123RF.COM

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has raised alarm on typhoid fever, also called enteric fever, after outbreak cases were detected in the Western Cape, North West and Gauteng. 

Dr Juno Thomas, head of the centre for enteric diseases at the NICD, said the institute was investigating the outbreaks after 64 cases were detected in the Cape Town metro health district, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route.

Eighteen cases in the North West's Dr Kenneth Kaunda district and 45 cases spread throughout Gauteng were reported. 

Speaking on CapeTalk, Thomas said typhoid was nothing new in SA. 

“As in many other lower-middle-income countries, we have typhoid all year round, but every now and then we get what we call clusters of diseases where there are perhaps more cases than we expected in a particular area among particular communities,” she said.

How can you get typhoid fever? 

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), typhoid fever is spread through sewage contamination of food or water and through person-to-person contact. 

People who are ill and people who have recovered, but are still passing the bacteria in their stools, can spread Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi.

You can get typhoid fever if:

  • You eat food or drink a beverage that has been touched by a person shedding (getting rid of) Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi in their poop and have not washed their hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom.
  • Sewage contaminated with Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi gets into water you drink.
  • Sewage contaminated with Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi gets into water used to rinse food you eat raw.

Is it Covid-19 or typhoid fever?

According to the NICD, typhoid may have similar symptoms to Covid-19 and the regular cough, cold and flu. These include a fever, coughing, tiredness and headaches; and occasionally a sore throat or diarrhoea. 

Covid-19 symptoms may evolve to difficulties in breathing and chest pains.

People who have typhoid fever will usually have a sustained fever (one that doesn’t come and go) that can be as high as 39—40°C.

They may also experience weakness, stomach pain, headache, diarrhoea or constipation, cough, vomiting or loss of appetite

Some people with typhoid fever develop a rash of flat, rose-coloured spots.

It is important to see a doctor or health professional if you develop any of these symptoms.

“Typhoid fever is a systemic illness caused by a bacterial infection with Salmonella enterica or serotypes Paratyphi A, B or C. 

“In the pre-antibiotic era, typhoid carried a mortality of 5-20%. However, there are effective antibiotics for treatment. In SA, typhoid is a notifiable condition as it has outbreak potential,” said the NICD.

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