Dead or Alive?

Information about the possible death of Usama bin Laden surfaced last week. The information was obtained from a leaked intelligence report raising the possibility that he died from complications of Typhoid fever. The report, as of today, has not been confirmed, but it does raise some interesting questions.

First, can you die from Typhoid fever? The short answer is YES. Approximately 20 percent of people infected with Typhoid, when left untreated, can die from complications of this infection.

How do you get Typhoid? Annually, there are over 12 million cases reported worldwide. It is very easy to find in developing countries. The alleged area where bin Laden has been hiding is well suited for Typhoid infection. Plus, drinking contaminated food or water that has been tainted with Salmonella can also spread typhoid.

Is it Contagious? People can become a carrier. In the early 1900s, “Typhoid Mary" infected 50 people after working as a cook in several homes. Ultimately, she was sent to North Brother Island where she remained imprisoned and died in 1938. Although she was a silent carrier, most people get constant fever (usually 104 degrees) with diarrhea and malaise. If not treated with antibiotics, intestinal rupture can occur or can cause kidney damage.

Can it be Treated? There are vaccines for Typhoid, but they are not 100 percent effective. Therefore, precautions spiraling when traveling to endemic areas must always be considered.

So, as we reported this morning, if bin Laden died from Typhoid fever, we could be looking at an end to this story.

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