What Is Typhoid Fever?
Typhoid fever, or typhoid, spreads through contaminated food or water. Caused by Salmonella typhi, typhoid fever is an acute illness infecting about 21.5 million people worldwide.
Typhoid fever can be fatal in up to 10% of reported cases. There has been an increase in the number of drug-resistant strains of Salmonella typhi since 1989. Unfortunately, drug resistance is spreading worldwide due to overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate control of infections and extensive international travel, trade and population movements.
Humans are the sole hosts of the bacteria which is shed in feces from 6 weeks to 3 months after infection. Most common symptoms include fever, anorexia, abdominal discomfort and headaches.
What Is the Typhoid Fever Vaccine?
There are two vaccines available to prevent typhoid fever:
• Vivotif (Typhoid Vaccine Live Oral Ty21a) – Also known as ‘typhoid pills’, Vivotif is made from attenuated live bacteria. The vaccine provides up to five years’ protection and is approved for use in individuals over six-years-old. Vivotif is taken orally over the course of four doses.
• Typhoid Vaccine (Injectable) – Made from inactive bacteria, the injectable typhoid vaccine provides protection for up to two years. This vaccine is approved for use in individuals over two-years-old.
The risk of either typhoid vaccination causing serious harm is rare and reactions to either vaccine are generally mild.
Typhoid is found throughout the world, but it's more likely to occur in areas where there's poor sanitation and hygiene.
High-risk areas include:
• The Indian subcontinent
• South and southeast Asia
• South America
Who should take the vaccine?Vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended if you're travelling to parts of the world where the condition is common.
It is also recommended if you're going to be staying or working with local people, or if you're going to be staying for prolonged periods in areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor.
In Europe, most people who get typhoid fever develop it while visiting India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. It's therefore particularly important that you're vaccinated if you're visiting these countries.
Typhoid vaccines lose effectiveness over time. The injectable vaccine requires a booster every 2 years, and the oral vaccine requires a booster every 5 years. If you were vaccinated in the past, ask your doctor if it is time for a booster vaccination. Taking antibiotics will not prevent typhoid fever; they only help treat it.