Travel health; Typhoid Fever
Typhoid fever is most common in areas of the world that have poor sanitation and limited access to clean water. Risky areas generally include parts of South America, Asia and Africa.
Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, a bacteria that belongs to the Salmonella family, also related to salmonella food poisoning. Once a person is infected, the bacterial infection can spread to many organs affecting a large part of the body and can lead to serious complications or even fatality if left untreated. It is also highly contagious and can be transmitted via the faecal-oral route. The facial-oral route means the bacteria passes through the stool exiting the body, and if another person eats or drinks anything contaminated with the faeces of an infected person, they too will be infected. It may sound very unlikely, however, you will be surprised at the amount of people that have poor hand hygiene.
Generally, children are more at risk of developing typhoid fever because they have lower developed immunity compared to adults. Children are also more careless when it comes to hygiene. However, it should also be noted that children tend to experience milder symptoms when compared to adults.
The best way to protect yourself against typhoid fever is to get vaccinated. There are currently two vaccines available in the UK; one being an oral treatment over a course of five days and the other a single injection. Vaccinations can offer you very good protection, however, they are not 100% effective, therefore, it is important to follow good practice advice.
Precautions will include:
- Only drink bottled water or bring it to a boil for 1 minute before you drink it
- Only drink drinks without ice unless the ice is made from bottled or boiled water
- Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and that are still hot and steaming.
- Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled. Vegetables like lettuce are easily contaminated and are very hard to wash well.
- When you eat raw fruit or vegetables that can be peeled, peel them yourself
- Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors
Typhoid vaccination is routinely recommended for anyone visiting risky areas and can sometimes be offered by the NHS.
Signs, symptoms and treatments
It is important to know the symptoms so you can look out for any signs of infection. It is important to receive prompt treatment with typhoid fever.
The main symptoms will include: fever (39-40C or above), stomach pain, headache, constipation or diarrheoa. If left untreated, the condition will get worse and can lead to internal bleeding in the digestive system: perforation of the bowel (splitting of a section of the digestive system).
It is generally treated at home with a 7 – 14 day course of antibiotics, but in more serious cases an admission to hospital for antibiotic injections may be required. With prompt treatment, most people start to feel better after a few days.
Take on messages from today’s blog:
- Vaccination against typhoid fever is extremely important if you are visiting risky areas and can be the best way to protect yourself against the infection
- It is important to be precautious and follow travel advice even if you are vaccinated.
For more information on vaccinations, call our travel health clinic at 0203 630 1244.