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Typhoid Fever

Barbara Guenst, C.R.N.P., Director, Travel Medicine Program

Salmonella typhi is the bacterium which causes the life threatening disease, typhoid fever. Humans, the only carriers of salmonella typhi, can contract the disease through food or water contaminated by the feces of an acutely infected person or through contact with an asymptomatic carrier. Poor hygiene after using the "facilities" and inadequate water/sewage systems can also cause the spread of typhoid fever. Unfortunately, this is all too common in developing countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012 Yellow Book reports approximately 300 cases per year in the USA with most of these cases acquired while traveling. 22 million cases of typhoid fever occur each year worldwide resulting in over 200,000 deaths. Symptoms usually develop within 6 to 30 days of infection and include a fever as high as 103 to 104 degrees, weakness, stomach pain, headaches, loss of appetite and in some cases a rash.

The use of good hand washing practices plus food and beverage precautions are essential in preventing the contraction of typhoid fever. Travelers visiting friends and relatives in developing countries are at HIGHER risk for infection because often they believe that they are immune and/or do not realize that they are at risk.

Fortunately, two typhoid vaccines - one injectable and one oral - are available to lessen your chances of contracting the disease. However the vaccine is not 100% effective. If you develop any symptoms upon your return from travel, you must be evaluated by your health care provider as soon as possible. If you do, in fact, develop typhoid fever, it can be treated with antibiotics. As a precaution after treatment, you must have your stool tested to assure that you do not further spread the bacteria.

To prevent contracting this or any foreign disease while traveling to a developing country, visit our Travel Medicine Clinic before your trip to receive a destination-specific consultation that will address travel health needs and evaluate your need for vaccines and additional precautions.

Last Updated: 11/28/2011