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Travel Health - Typhoid

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Travel Health - Typhoid


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What is Typhoid Fever?
Typhoid fever is a potentially life-threatening infection caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. Every year the disease affects up to 16 million people, and causes approximately 600,000 deaths worldwide. With the improvement in sanitary facilities and hygiene, typhoid has been virtually eliminated in many areas. However it remains a problem in many developing countries.
What are the symptoms?
Typhoid fever is recognised by the onset of fever, severe headache, nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite.

It is sometimes accompanied by delirium, bloody stools, constipation, and diarrhoea. In some cases a rash may appear. Severe complications of typhoid fever include bleeding from the gut, perforation of the small intestine, pneumonia, meningitis, and kidney failure.
How is it contracted?
Typhoid fever is usually transmitted by food and water that has been contaminated by sewage.

Important sources of infection are:

  • Shellfish from sewage polluted beds
  • Contaminated raw fruit and vegetables
  • Contaminated milk and milk products
  • Pollution of water sources
People can transmit the disease as long as the bacteria remain in their system. About 10% of untreated patients will discharge bacteria for up to 3 months, while 2% to 5% of untreated patients will become permanent carriers.

Where are you at risk?

Typhoid fever is common in many parts of the world, except in industrialised regions such as Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Therefore, if you are travelling to countries in the developing world, you should consider taking precautions. Typhoid fever is most prevalent in any area where sanitary conditions are poor, especially countries in

  • Africa
  • Far East and Indian subcontinent
  • South America
Protecting yourself against Typhoid Fever

An injected vaccine is available against typhoid fever, which will provide protection for up to 3 years. There is also an oral vaccine, which provides protection for 1 year.
  • If you have been vaccinated in the past, check with your doctor’s surgery to see if it is time for revaccination
  • Even with vaccination, careful selection of food and drink is essential to minimise the risk of infection
  • Taking antibiotics will not prevent typhoid fever – they only help treat it.
When should you be vaccinated?

Check with your doctor or practice nurse as soon as you have decided where and when you are travelling, and they will advise you on an appropriate vaccination schedule. Your pharmacy will aslo be able to give you advice.

Does the vaccination have any side effects?

Like most injections, some people may experience tenderness and redness at the site of the injection. Typhoid cannot be contracted directly from the vaccine.