Typhoid fever case confirmed at Purdue University
Purdue University and Indiana public health officials are reaching out to students, faculty and visitors who may have eaten in three locations on campus in West Lafayette, after a food handler tested positive for typhoid fever on Tuesday.
The unnamed employee was wearing gloves, but could have spread the illness while at work from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25, according to a press release issued by Richard Ghiselli, head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue. Anyone who ate at the Boiler Bistro, John Purdue Room, or the coffee shop in Marriott Hall during this time may be at risk.
The illness can be treated with prescribed antibiotics and a vaccine is available for those who plan to travel abroad. If left untreated, the disease can last up to a month and serious complications may occur including tears or hemorrhaging in the intestinal track.
"We want all of our students and other patrons to know that we put their health first," Ghiselli said. "We are informing our students and patrons and are working together with the Indiana State Department of Health.”
The Purdue employee contracted the disease while traveling abroad and will not return to work until cleared by the state health department, Ghiselli said.
Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said that while the disease is rare in the United States — about 400 cases each year — more than 22 million cases worldwide are reported annually and an estimated 200,000 people die due to the illness or complications. Most of the reported cases in the United States come from those who had recently traveled abroad.
In Illinois, 240 cases of typhoid fever have been reported since 2000, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Russel said the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, which is a type of salmonella known as S. typhi, spreads through contaminated food, water or other beverages.
“The salmonella bacteria only lives in humans who are contaminated and it’s carried in their blood streams,” she said. “But people who have recovered from the disease can also be what we call carriers, and they can spread it to other people.”
According to the CDC, symptoms typically appear within eight to 14 days but can begin up to 30 days after exposure. Sometimes patients will have symptoms that gradually worsen each day, while others experience a continuous rise and fall during the day. The most common symptoms include a high fever — usually ranging between 103-104 degrees — weakness, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. In some cases, a rash of rose-colored spots may appear on the torso.
The CDC says the risk of getting typhoid fever is highest for those who travel in southern Asia, in particular East and Southeast Asia. Other areas of heightened risk include Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. A longer stay in these areas can increase the risk of infection but some travelers have contracted the disease in less than a week where typhoid fever is endemic.
Russel said the vaccination will help prevent typhoid fever while abroad and should be administered about two weeks before a trip to developing nations where hand washing and sanitation aren’t as common. Purdue Student Health Center has announced that, under these circumstances, it will offer advice or health care without charge to anyone who is showing symptoms and ate at Marriott Hall locations during the potential contamination days.
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