Typhoid fever reported at Purdue University

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WEST LAFAYETTE – State health officials have confirmed a positive case of typhoid fever at Purdue University.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the person is a food handler. The department is working with the university to assess risks to the public.

Anyone who ate at the Boiler Bistro, John Purdue Room or the coffee shop Lavazza at Marriott Hall could be at risk. Health officials cited several examples of symptoms, including high fever (103 to 104 degrees), weakness, stomach pains, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite. In some cases, a rash of flat, rose-colored spots may also become apparent. Symptoms typically start showing within 8-14 days after exposure.

School officials said the infected person wore gloves during food preparation and had minimal contact with food.

People are at risk for typhoid fever if they eat or drink something contaminated with Salmonella Typhi. This includes food handled by an infected person or sewage contamination in water used for drinking or washing food.

Only a stool or blood test can determine if someone is infected, health officials said. The U.S. typically sees about 400 cases a year. Nearly 75 percent of cases occur during international travel, as the illness is common in developing countries. The case currently under investigation involves someone who recently traveled internationally and contracted the infection. The patient will not be allowed to return to work until cleared by health officials, the school said.

Even if symptoms go away, people can still carry the bacteria, which could return or get passed on to someone else. The most famous case of typhoid was that of Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary. Mallon was the first known asymptomatic carrier in the United States, meaning she herself did not exhibit any symptoms but shed the bacteria which then infected others. She infected more than 50 people while working as a cook during the 1900s and was forcibly isolated by public health officials at least twice.

Antibiotics are used treat the illness. Typhoid is rarely fatal, although it can become deadly when left untreated.

For more information about typhoid fever, visit the health department’s website.

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