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Typhoid fever is a serious infection of the intestines and blood, spread via contaminated food and water. It’s common in countries with poor hygiene and untreated drinking water. Immunisation is recommended for travellers to high risk countries.

Did you know?

  • Without treatment, one in 20 of those who recover from typhoid will continue to carry the bacteria (they are called ‘carriers’) and can still spread the disease for about three months. 1
  • About 28 million people are affected globally each year. 1
  • Almost every Australian case of typhoid is caught overseas, with around 200 cases reported each year.1
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What is it?

Typhoid fever is an infection of the intestine and blood and is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. Most cases of typhoid fever occur in less developed countries, where poor sanitation, poor food hygiene and untreated drinking water are common. If the disease is left untreated, serious complications can develop.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of typhoid fever can develop one to three weeks (but can be as short as three days or as long as sixty days) after ingestion of the bacteria. 

These may be mild or severe and usually include fever, headache, generally feeling unwell, loss of appetite, muscle aches and a dry cough. Older children and adults tend to experience constipation, while younger children are more likely to suffer from diarrhoea.

If the disease is left untreated it may lead to serious complications.

This is not a full fist of symptoms that can occur following typhoid infection. If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible.

How is it spread?

Typhoid fever is caused by bacteria that is only found in humans. People infected with typhoid carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestines and pass it in their faeces. It spreads to others by the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. 

You can also catch typhoid if sewage contaminated with the bacteria gets into water that is used for drinking or washing food. Typhoid is more common in regions where water is likely to be contaminated with sewage.

Who is at risk?

You are at risk of typhoid if you are not immunised and are travelling to areas where typhoid fever is common. People returning to their home country to visit family and friends are at greater risk of typhoid fever than other travellers.

Travelling to areas that have a higher risk include Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, several South Pacific nations, including Papua New Guinea, and the Indian subcontinent.

Typhoid immunisation is recommended for all travellers aged two years and above when visiting destinations where typhoid fever is common.

Other people may be at risk of typhoid infection. Please speak to your doctor regarding your individual circumstances.

Who should be vaccinated?

  • If you are travelling to an area where typhoid is common, the best way to reduce your risk of infection is to follow these two basic measures.

    1. Avoid risky foods and drinks

    Some recommendations include:

    • only drink and use safe, clean water (e.g. sealed bottled water or boiled water), even for things like brushing teeth,
    • don’t put ice in drinks unless you know it’s from safe water,
    • wash hands often using soap and safe, clean water,
    • avoid eating food kept at room temperature for several hours,
    • avoid uncooked food, including salads and fruit that cannot be peeled, and seafood,
    • thoroughly boil or cook food and drinks.

    An easy way to remember it: if you can’t boil it, cook it or peel it, forget it.

    2. Get the typhoid vaccine

    Australian health authorities recommend that all travellers aged two years and above are immunised against typhoid before visiting destinations where typhoid fever is common. Speak to your doctor for more information.

Treatment

Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics. Without treatment, the fever can continue for weeks and the risk of complications increases greatly. 

If you have a high fever and feel very unwell when travelling or soon after returning from travel, please see your doctor as soon as possible.

Important information

It is important to plan ahead and see your doctor at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss immunisation and travel health.

Some side effects may be experienced following immunisation. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your doctor.

References

  1. Typhoid and paratyphoid, Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/typhoid-and-paratyphoid (accessed September 2018)

AUS/VAC/0098/18 Date of Approval November 2018