Typhoid is a disease caused by bacteria present in contaminated food and water. Typhoid is a common disease in developing countries because hygiene standards are often poor. It is prevalent in Asia, Africa and South America.
Typhoid usually takes between 10-20 days to present. The classic signs are fever, headache and feeling unwell followed by stomach pain, constipation or in some cases diarrhoea, deafness, cough and a rash. If treatment is sought at this stage, the outcome is usually favourable.
Untreated typhoid can cause internal organ damage, especially to the lining of the bowel, which can lead to severe blood poisoning. The liver, lungs, kidneys, bones, spleen and linings of the brain can also become damaged. Untreated typhoid has a fatality rate of 10-20%.
2-5% of infected people become 'carriers' who may infect others without knowing.
Typhoid is contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacteria, or from contaminated hands and unclean eating utensils. It is often spread by infected carriers who may show no signs of the disease, or by people with typhoid fever who are in contact with food (ie preparing, serving or sharing) with poor hand-washing habits.
The risks of catching typhoid depend on the style of travel or living. Backpackers are at significant risk and have up to a 1:3000 chance of becoming ill with typhoid.
Typhoid can be treated with fluid replacement and specific antibiotics. Treatment needs to be started early to prevent any serious or permanent damage.
Immunisation is strongly recommended for travellers who will be at risk.
Meticulous hygiene and safe rules of eating and drinking still apply to reduce the risks of exposure to typhoid and other food and water borne diseases.
Updated August 2021.