Did you just give your child typhoid?

The bacterium that causes typhoid is able to spread rapidly with unclean cooking surfaces and unhygienic ways of handling food – so is your kitchen safe or a safety hazard?

It seems like an innocuous illness, but typhoid can cause high fever, and even acute hair fall and weakness. So how do you prevent it?

What are the causes of typhoid?

Typhoid is primarily caused by the Salmonella Enterica Serotype Typhi bacteria, or in some cases, the Salmonella Paratyphi bacteria. Both of these are the leading causes of typhoid fever. They are said to be deposited in food or water by a human carrier, who incubates it in their intestines prior to spreading it to others.

  • The typhoid-causing bacteria can enter food and water and contaminate them. However, the contamination often happens when the stools of an infected person or persons come into contact with the surrounding water supply, i.e. via the sewage and water supply lines being located close together. The contaminated water supply can run into homes and also enter the food supply chain.
  • The most sure-fire way of spreading the bacteria around is to touch your hands exposed to contaminated water or food with other food, or touching surfaces of common use with contaminated hands. The bacteria are quite hardy as well – they can survive for weeks on surfaces, inside water, or even on dried sewage.
  • Owing to these causes of typhoid, the fever often breaks out in large numbers of people in a given locality. The civic administration is then tasked with testing water samples in the area, as also cracking down on hawkers selling food in the open, or not employing hygienic practices when handling food or water.

Is your kitchen safe from typhoid?

If you are wondering how typhoid reached your home – maybe your child or another family member was recently diagnosed with the illness – now would be a good time to do a spot check of your home hygiene and cooking practices:

* Don’t be the cause of typhoid. Like we mentioned above, typhoid can be passed to food and water through unclean hands. If you are in charge of preparing food and cooking all the meals for the household, then your hands must be germ-free. Use an antibacterial handwashing soap prior to handling raw food, and make sure to wash your hands after cooking as well.

* Check the water quality in your house. Get the water samples in your house tested for typhoid. You can do this by contacting the local municipal ward office.

* Sanitise all surfaces of common use every day. In case there is a typhoid outbreak in the locality, make sure that all the surfaces of common use in the house – taps, knobs and handles, phone handset, computer keyboard, TV remote control, etc. – are sanitised with a disinfectant liquid. This removes all the lurking germs by killing up to 99.9% of them on contact.

Ellen Cone