Typhoid fever is an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, which is found in contaminated food and water.
What are the symptoms of Typhoid fever?
Typhoid symptoms usually develop from one to three weeks after exposure. Common symptoms include a persistent fever that may be as high as 40° C (104° F), headache, confusion, dizziness, dry cough, loss of appetite, and either constipation or diarrhea. Some people also develop a rash of flat, rose-colored spots on their chest and back.
If Typhoid is untreated, symptoms get progressively worse for two weeks. Other complications may include elevated respiration, slowing heartbeat, severe delirium, abdominal swelling, and internal bleeding.
By the fourth week, the fever will begin to subside. However, symptoms may return in the following two weeks. Typhoid that is not treated can lead to inflammation of internal organs including the heart, spleen, and liver, and it can be fatal.
Some people who are infected with Typhoid do not develop symptoms, and up to five percent of people who recover from Typhoid become healthy carriers who are capable of infecting other people.
How can I get Typhoid fever?
You can get Typhoid by eating foods or drinking beverages that have been handled by someone who is infected with Typhoid, eating produce that has been fertilized with human waste, or drinking or preparing food with contaminated water.
Where can I get Typhoid fever?
Typhoid fever is more common in parts of the developing world where sewage may not be disposed of safely and basic hygiene such as hand washing may not be practiced. You are at low risk of contracting Typhoid if you are travelling to a tourist or business center that employs modern sanitation and food-handling practices.
High-risk regions include South Asia as well as developing countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Middle East. Risk is highest among travellers who are visiting rural areas, staying in local accommodation, or who have weakened immune systems.
What vaccines are available for Typhoid fever?
There are injectable and oral vaccines available to prevent Typhoid, however neither of them are 100 percent effective. Food and water safety precautions must still be followed rigorously in areas where Typhoid is common.
Consult with your travel medicine provider to assess your risks of becoming infected if you are travelling to a Typhoid-endemic area. Vaccination is not routinely recommended for short-term travel to resorts in these areas.
How many shots will I need?
The injectable vaccination is given in a single shot. The oral vaccine is given in four doses.
Will I need a booster?
If you have continuing exposure to Typhoid you should have an injectable booster every two years or an oral vaccine booster every five years.
How can I prevent Typhoid fever?
Vaccination will reduce, but not eliminate, your risk of Typhoid infection.
If you are travelling to areas where tap water may not be safe to drink and bottled beverages are not available, be prepared to purify your own drinking water. You can boil your water or use filters or water purification drops.
Safe food and water precautions and frequent hand washing are important. Watch what you eat. The rule of thumb is “boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it!”
What is the treatment for Typhoid fever?
Typhoid is treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotic-resistance in strains of S. typhi is a growing problem.
In some cases, symptoms disappear and then return. Others who no longer have symptoms can become carriers with the potential to infect other people.
If you are being treated for Typhoid fever:
- Take the prescribed antibiotics until your doctor tells you to stop.
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water after using the bathroom.
- Do not prepare or serve food for other people.
Hospital admission is recommended for people who have persistent vomiting, severe diarrhea, or a swollen abdomen. Surgery may occasionally be required for life threatening complications such as intestinal perforations.
Find out more information on Typhoid Fever from our Vancouver Travel Clinic or any of our other 18 Travel Clinic locations.