Typhoid scare at Boston-area day care after child diagnosed

Day care closed in typhoid scare

NORTH QUINCY – Some parents are concerned after a child at a day care and preschool in Massachusetts was diagnosed with typhoid fever, CBS Boston reports. The Bright Horizons center in North Quincy is closed while teachers and students get tested for possible exposure.

"My primary concern is the safety of my child," said one mother whose infant attends Bright Horizons.

Ann Scales, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, on Thursday confirmed one case of typhoid fever.

"The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working with Bright Horizons and the Quincy Public Health Department to prevent the spread of the disease," Scales said.

Bright Horizons spokesperson Bridget Perry said center officials were told that the child had traveled abroad recently.

A letter to parents from the state public health department stated: "A toddler in your child's class has been diagnosed with typhoid fever, a diarrheal illness caused by bacteria called Salmonella Typhi."

Bright Horizons day care and preschool in North Quincy, Mass. WBZ-TV

The letter also informed parents that, in order to remain in the day care, their children must submit a stool specimen to public health officials by Monday, May 14, even if they are not feeling ill, "to make sure they are not carrying the germ that causes typhoid fever."

"Alternatively, you may bring your child to their pediatrician to coordinate stool collection and testing," the letter stated.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi, which lives only in humans. People with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract and a small number of people, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both people who are ill and carriers shed Salmonella Typhi in their feces.

WBZ-TV's Dr. Mallika Marshall said typhoid fever is rare in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 5,700 cases of typhoid fever each year in the United States, up to three-quarters of which are acquired while traveling internationally.

Symptoms of typhoid fever include lasting high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headache, and loss of appetite. Some patients have constipation, and some have a rash.

Typhoid fever is spread by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding Salmonella Typhi or if sewage contaminated with Salmonella Typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food.

The illness is more common in countries where hand washing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage.

Scales said Bright Horizons has temporarily closed while health officials are investigating.

Perry, the Bright Horizons spokesperson, said the center was closed Wednesday and Thursday at the recommendations of public health officials.

In a statement, the state Department of Early Education and Care said it received notification on May 8 from Bright Horizons of a case of typhoid fever in a child at their Quincy program.

"EEC is working with Bright Horizons and the Department of Public Health to ensure the health and safety of the children in the program in accordance with state requirements. The program is currently closed," the statement said.