How true is the claim that anyone who contracts typhoid fever must have ingested human faeces?

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AN Instagram user, Adefunke Arowolo, has claimed that anyone that contracts typhoid fever must have ingested human faeces directly or indirectly.

The claim, posted on February 6, 2024, read thus:

“Dear Nigerians, if you truly have typhoid fever, just know you have tasted someone’s faeces either directly or indirectly.”

The FactCheckHub has over the months fact-checked similar health misinformation including one that suggests that drinking water obtained from soaked unripe plantain can cure ulcer and another claim that drinking pineapple with hot water cures cancer, among others.

 

CLAIM

Anyone that contracts typhoid fever must have ingested human faeces directly or indirectly.

 

THE FINDINGS

Checks by The FactCheckHub show that the claim is HALF-TRUE.

The UK-based National Health Service (NHS), in an online article, explains that typhoid fever is “caused by a bacterium called Salmonella Typhi.”

Photomicrograph of Salmonella typhi also known as Typhoid fever. PHOTO CREDITS: Britannica.com.
Photomicrograph of Salmonella typhi also known as Typhoid fever. PHOTO CREDITS: Britannica.com.

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal.

“It’s caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi, which is related to the bacteria that cause salmonella food poisoning.

“Typhoid fever is highly contagious. An infected person can pass the bacteria out of their body in their poo or, less commonly, in their pee.

“Suppose someone else eats food or drinks water that’s been contaminated with a small amount of infected poo or pee. In that case, they can become infected with the bacteria and develop typhoid fever,” it wrote.

The NHS is the British government-funded medical and health care services that everyone living in the United Kingdom (UK) can use without being asked to pay the full cost of the service.

Similarly, the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that “typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever are most common in parts of the world where water and food may be unsafe and sanitation is poor.”

“These diseases are spread through sewage contamination of food or water and through person-to-person contact.

“People who are currently ill and people who have recovered but are still passing the bacteria in their poop (stools) can spread Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi,” it stated.

Symptoms of Typhoid Fever. PHOTO CREDITS: Homage.com.my
Symptoms of Typhoid Fever. PHOTO CREDITS: Homage.com.my

It noted that you can get typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever if:

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

It further stated that if you consume a food or drink contaminated with Salmonella Typhi or Salmonella Paratyphi, the bacteria can multiply and spread into the bloodstream, causing typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever.

 

What doctors say…

Reacting to Ms. Arowolo’s Instagram post archived here, Damian Avar, a medical practitioner and health influencer with the Instagram handle, @therealsabidoctor made a video to explain the claim medically.

In the video found here, he explained that typhoid can be contracted through human faeces. He noted that typhoid is an unscrupulous bacteria called “salmonella typhi” which is only transmitted ‘Feco-orally.’

“’Feco-orally’ transmission occurs when bacteria come directly from faeces and enter the body through the mouth,” Avar stated in the video archived here.

He further pointed out that what most Nigerians treat as typhoid is severe malaria, as anyone can contract typhoid directly or indirectly by consuming the faeces of a contaminated carrier.

The FactCheckHub reached out to him via his IG handle to know his view on urine transmission and clarify whether the only way to contract typhoid is through the consumption of faeces, but he is yet to respond as at the time of filing this fact-check.

However, in an interview with The FactCheckHub, Genevive Onyinye Mbanefor, a medical officer with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said: “Truly, typhoid fever is transmitted via ‘Feco-oral route’, meaning that eating food or any edible contaminated by faeces of a carrier can predispose to contracting the bacteria responsible for causing enteric fever.”

When asked if typhoid can be gotten from urine transmission too, she said, “it is basically Feco-oral transmission. But rarely, not a common thing, it can be gotten via contamination by carrier urine.”

She went further to explain that “a carrier is a source of contamination.”

“The infection can be transmitted when it has entered the mouth orally. It then gets to the gastrointestinal tract and starts causing issues. It can also hide in the gall-bladder. Also, if a carrier contaminates a surface or object with his unwashed hands after using the toilet, and another individual comes in contact with the surface. He or she can only get the bacteria if they use the contaminated hand to prepare or consume food and water orally,” Ms Mbanefor said.

 

THE VERDICT

The claim that anyone that contracts typhoid fever must have ingested human faeces directly or indirectly is HALF-TRUE; findings revealed that it is one of the transmission modes of the illness, as carriers can also contract the illness via urine or contact with an already contaminated surface, sewage, foods or drinks, among others.

 

*EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline has been updated while our verdict has been changed to HALF-TRUE to reflect the updated findings by this fact-checker. Kindly take note.

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Amala is a tactical Fact-Checker, who is passionate about using Fact-checking to curb the spread of Misinformation and Disinformation which has become prevalent in the media space. She can be reached on X at muonweblessing and LinkedIn on Amala Blessing Muonwe

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