As Zac Efron ‘bounces back’ after suspected typhoid infection, here’s what you need to know about the illness

Alexandra Thompson
Cast member Zac Efron attends the premiere of "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" in Hollywood, California, U.S. June 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Phil McCarten
Zac Efron was thought to have 'typhoid or similar bacterial infection'. [Getty]

Zac Efron has “bounced back” after “getting sick” in Papa New Guinea.

The High School Musical heartthrob was filming the upcoming adventure show Killing Zac Efron in the run up to Christmas.

READ MORE: Pakistan grapples with drug-resistant typhoid outbreak

Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when the 32-year-old was rushed to an Australian hospital on a “life or death flight”, Metro reported.

After being diagnosed with suspected “typhoid or similar bacterial infection”, the actor was deemed stable enough to fly to his native US on Christmas Eve.

Taking to Instagram, Efron told his 41.3m followers he “did get sick” but “bounced back quick”, and is now “home for the holidays with friends and family”.

Typhoid, or typhoid fever, is a bacterial infection that can cause serious complications or even death, according to the NHS.

Between 11m and 21m cases arise every year around the world, resulting in 128,000 to 161,000 fatalities, the World Health Organization reports.

The highly contagious pathogen passes in a person’s faeces or, less commonly, their urine.

Eating food contaminated with just a small amount of the responsible bacteria, Salmonella typhi, can be enough to cause someone to develop the disease.

READ MORE: Neglect of typhoid outside rich countries

This tends to occur in less developed areas of the world with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.

In the UK, around 500 typhoid cases arise a year, the NHS reports.

Around 350 “culture-confirmed” incidences occurred annually in the US between 2008 and 2015, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These tend to be in people who visited relatives in high-risk areas like Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, according to the NHS. The bacteria is also found in South America, Africa and other parts of Asia.

Children are particularly at risk due to their immune systems being less developed.

Typhoid-related deaths are “virtually unheard of” in the UK, according to the NHS.

What are typhoid symptoms and how it is treated?

Typhoid symptoms include fever reaching between 39°C (102°F) and 40°C (104°F). A healthy body temperature is around 37°C (98°F).

Sufferers also tend to endure headache, cough, constipation, and aches and pains.

The above usually come on between one and two weeks after the infection takes hold.

As it progresses, many develop abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite.

Left untreated, around one in 10 sufferers develop complications, usually around week three.

The two most common complications are internal bleeding and a section of the digestive system splitting.

The latter causes the infection to spread to the stomach and abdomen lining. This can lead to sepsis and multiple organ failure.

READ MORE: Why you should know the real story of ‘Typhoid Mary’

If caught early enough, typhoid can be treated at home with antibiotics over 7 to 14 days.

More serious cases – severe vomiting or diarrhoea and a swollen abdomen – require IV antibiotics in hospital.

In some areas of the world, particularly south-east Asia, Salmonella typhi has become resistant to once go-to antibiotics.

Once treated, most tend to feel better within a few days and do not suffer lasting complications.

Without prompt intervention, however, it can take weeks or even months to get back to your old self, with symptoms also recurring.

If internal bleeding occurs, a transfusion may be required to replace the blood lost. Surgery also repairs the site of the bleeding.

Actor Zac Efron poses for photographers upon arrival at the 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile' premiere in London, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Zac Efron at the London premiere of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile in April. [Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP]

To prevent the infection, the UK offers two vaccines. The first is a single jab, while the second involves taking three tablets.

These are usually available on the NHS and are “highly recommended” if travelling to high-risk areas. Private travel clinics charge around £30.

Neither vaccines are 100% effective. Travellers are therefore advised to drink only bottled or boiled water, and wash their hands thoroughly before preparing food.

It is also advisable to avoid ice, ice cream and shellfish, as well as only eating fruit or raw vegetables if peeled or washed yourself.

Infected people should avoid handling or preparing food until they are “bacteria free”, usually confirmed via a stool sample.

Some can carry the infection even after they feel better and may therefore require further antibiotics to ensure it is “flushed out”.