What is typhoid fever?

An estimated 11–20 million people get sick from typhoid every year.

Typhoid fever is a prevalent infectious disease in developing countries, caused by the transmission of Salmonella typhi bacteria through contaminated food and/or water.

Who’s at risk?

The risk of typhoid fever is greater in populations that do not have access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities. Poor communities and vulnerable groups, including children, are at the highest risk. Although the disease remains a public health concern in developing areas of Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, and the Western Pacific regions, progress has been made in recent years to combat its spread.

For travellers, typhoid fever is contracted by consuming contaminated food and/or drink.

People eating while on a cruise

What are the symptoms?

Persons with typhoid fever usually experience a sustained fever as high as 103°F–104°F (39°C–40°C).

Symptoms can also include high fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and constipation or diarrhea. In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-coloured spots. The illness can be life-threatening.

Father and kid washing food

How can typhoid fever be prevented?

If you are travelling to an area at risk of typhoid fever:

  • Get a vaccine against typhoid fever ahead of travelling.
  • Ensure food is properly cooked and still hot when served.
  • Avoid raw milk and products made from raw milk. Drink only pasteurized or boiled milk.
  • Avoid ice unless it is made from safe water.
  • When the safety of drinking water is questionable, boil it or if this is not possible, disinfect it with a reliable, slow-release disinfectant agent (usually available at pharmacies).
  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently using soap, in particular after contact with pets or farm animals, or after having been to the toilet.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables carefully, particularly if they are eaten raw. If possible, vegetables and fruits should be peeled.

How is typhoid fever treated?

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for typhoid fever, although resistance to some antibiotics has emerged in affected regions. Newer antibiotics are being used to treat the disease in these areas, and while sporadic reports of resistance to these antibiotics have emerged, it is not yet common.

It's important to note that even after symptoms disappear, individuals may still be carriers of the typhoid bacteria, which can be spread to others through their feces.