WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Purdue has issued an alert for a rare and potentially deadly disease. Health officials said Tuesday a food handler has typhoid fever. Now, anybody eating at several on-campus dining areas over a three-day period could be at risk.
Typhoid fever may not be a well-known illness. But if not treated, it's an illness that can be fatal.
"At first, I was kind of thrown back. I've never even heard of that before," said Cole Newton, a Purdue student.
"I know that typhoid fever makes you really sick but I wasn't quite sure about the different symptoms," said Rebecca Foley, an engineering major.
Although some Purdue students may not know what typhoid fever is, they may be at risk.
State health officials announced that a food handler at Marriott Hall is positive for typhoid fever. The patient contracted the disease while traveling internationally. Now, anybody who ate at Boiler Bistro, the John Purdue Room or Lavazza coffee shop from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 should be on the look out.
Food prepared in Marriott for Purdue's Ben & Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School was not affected, because it is made in a different area.
The illness caused by a bacterium in the salmonella family can put people at risk if they eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by someone with the illness.
"What happens is you consume the organism, which is a salmonella organism. Then you begin to start having usually low grade fevers over the course of a week. Then the fever start progressively getting higher," explained Daniel Holbrook, a nurse practitioner with Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health.
Stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, a rose-colored rash can accompany the fever. The symptoms may not begin until 8 to 14 days after exposure. In other words, symptoms for some people may not have appeared yet.
On average, only three cases of typhoid fever are reported annually in Indiana. By state law, typhoid fever must be reported.
"Physicians that diagnose these cases are required to report them immediately to the local health department and to public health. That's how this case was discovered. The individual sought medical treatment, the doctor diagnosed it, tested, and it turned out to be a case," said Tom Duszynski, Director of Surveillance and Investigation for the Indiana State Department of Health.
Health care providers said the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands.
"Let's say somebody goes to the bathroom, doesn't wash their hands, you come, you shake their hands, and then you grab your hamburger, take a bite of it. Basically, you can be consuming some of the organism that they had on their hand," Holbrook said.
Still, some Purdue students said the whole situation is a little scary.
"I don't know where I would eat because I'm on a meal plan and I have no money," Foley said.
Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics. People on antibiotics usually feel better within two to three days. However, if the illness is left untreated, typhoid fever can be fatal.
Purdue officials said the infected food handler will not return to work until cleared by the state health department.
They advise if you ate at Marriott Hall on Purdue's campus from Jan. 23-25 and are experiencing symptoms of a high fever, diarrhea, vomiting or a rose-colored rash, see your physician.
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