XDR Typhoid: Pakistan’s Newest Epidemic

Superbug typhoid or XDR typhoid refers to extensively drug resistant typhoid. It is a type of fever that regular antibiotics are unable to cure. Pakistan has become the newest victim of Salmonella Typhi which is the bacterium that causes XDR typhoid.

In Pakistan, the outbreak started in November of 2016 and is growing with each passing year. According to a recent WHO report, 8188 cases of typhoid were reported in Pakistan between 2016 and 2018. Out of these 8188, a whopping 5274 were of the XDR type. Sindh has been affected in the worst way with 3658 cases coming out of Karachi alone.

Another report claims that 5 children have been diagnosed with XDR typhoid in the United States between 2016 and 2018. All of these children caught it during their travel to Pakistan leading the authorities to increase surveillance of travelers returning from Pakistan. An outbreak of drug-resistant typhoid is a cause for concern. It can potentially lead to a severe health crisis not only in Pakistan but also on a global level.

Here, we will analyze the current situation of XDR in Pakistan and how you can avoid it by following some precautionary measures. However, this piece is for the sake of information and should not be taken as alternative to visiting a specialist doctor.

Current Situation

Unfortunately, after two whole years, Pakistan is still facing the threat of XDR typhoid. New cases are emerging every day and the situation is getting worse. According to a 2019 report by Dawn, up till now, 8000 people have been affected by XDR in Pakistan. The report also informs about the health alert that the Pakistan Medical Association has released for the people urging them to take precautions and avoid self-medication.

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Third generation antibiotics are a typical choice for the treatment of normal typhoid whereas XDR is resistant to these antibiotics. As a result, many physicians in Pakistan are struggling with coming up a plan of action for treating XDR patients. This has led to the loss of many lives since the outbreak of the disease. Another report suggests that over a dozen people have lost their lives to XDR typhoid in the province of Sindh.

Recognizing the sensitivity of the situation, WHO has jumped in to help. It is assisting the local government in getting a hold of this health crisis. A national plan of action is already in place and WHO is supplying the technical resources to the government to execute this plan.

Symptoms

Some of the main symptoms of typhoid include high-grade fever, stomach pain, and nausea. In some cases, the patients are also likely to experience vomiting, loss of appetite, coughing and exhaustion. This condition leads to frequent bouts of high fever resulting in dehydration of the body. Weakness and severe headaches are thus also very common in typhoid. Prolonged fevers in case of XDR typhoid can severely drench all the water from the body which can be fatal in extreme cases.

Precautions

Since it is hard to treat XDR typhoid, your best bet is to avoid it altogether. XDR typhoid spreads through contaminated water and food. A good strategy to avoid the consumption of contaminated water is to boil it before drinking. You can also go on to boil the utensils that you use for eating so that there is a minimum chance of you catching the bacteria.

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Another important precaution is to avoid street food. If you are consuming any food make sure you know where and how it has been cooked. Homemade food is the best option in this scenario. A person who is already sick should not be the one cooking the food because he/she can transfer germs to the food. Raw food such as fruits and vegetables should also be avoided.

Self-medication in cases of XDR typhoid can make matters worse. The bacteria which cause XDR typhoid are resistant to antibiotics. Taking general antibiotics if you have XDR bacteria in your system will strengthen its resistance even more. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of typhoid the first step should be to get tested for XDR. If you get diagnosed with XDR or any typhoid for that matter, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

XDR typhoid is on the rise in Pakistan. People living in Karachi and other cities of Sindh are the most vulnerable. Therefore, if you feel that yourself or a loved one has certain symptoms of XDR, do not ignore it. Remember, the best approach is precaution and early treatment if we aim to defeat this epidemic. Moreover, people who have already developed symptoms of typhoid should avoid self-medication at all costs and should visit a doctor at their earliest.

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This article was produced in partnership with oladoc.com, a digital health company in Pakistan. Using oladoc, you can find the best medical specialist in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and book an appointment online.