Travel Health: Everything You Need to Know About Typhoid

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Photo © Unsplash/Juan Ignacio Tapia

How Typhoid Spreads

Typhoid fever, also known as enteric fever is a life threatening illness caused by the bacteria, Salmonella typhi.

Salmonella Typhi can only live in humans. People who have been infected with the bacteria carry it within their intestinal tract and blood stream, and they shed the bacteria in their faeces (stools).

You can get typhoid fever if you consume food or drinks that have been handled by someone who is shedding Salmonella typhi or contaminated surfaces or utensils. If your drinking water or washed food such as fruit, vegetables and salads have been prepared with contaminated water, then there could be a risk of contracting typhoid.

Regions Affected

It‘s common in most parts of the world, with incidence rates in developed countries decreasing due to improved medical treatment and sanitation. Typhoid outbreaks tend to happen also after natural disasters such as cyclones and floods due to damaged infrastructure, contaminated water and poor sanitation.

Vaccination

If you are traveling to an area where typhoid is common or an outbreak is present, you should consider getting a vaccination.

Typhoid vaccination is recommended for all travelers over two years old, and should be conducted at least two weeks prior to travel. The vaccine is available both as an injection and orally.

Duration

Typhoid incubates over one to three weeks before initial symptoms show.

Symptoms

A person who is suffering from typhoid usually will have a sustained high fever, fatigue, stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite, malaise, muscle pain and a dry cough. A rash may develop that is flat and has rose colored spots. The only way to know if it's typhoid is to have your blood or stools tested for the presence of Salmonella Typhi.

Treatment

Given typhoid has symptoms similar to other diseases it's important that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible to make sure you are treated correctly.

Treatment is usually in the form of antibiotic tablets or injections. People who are given antibiotics usually start to feel better within 2-3 days, and death rarely occurs. However, people who don't get treatment can continue to have symptoms for weeks to months, with a small percentage dying from the disease.

Even when if the symptoms seem to subside you could still be carrying the bacteria. If the illness can return, you can still pass the disease on to other people.

Make sure your doctor performs follow up samples and tests to ensure the bacteria are no longer within your system if you are feeling well.

Prevention

You can avoid typhoid fever by making sure you get vaccinated before travel and taking some simple precautions while you're on the road.

If you plan to sample the local street food, do a few checks before ordering your meal. If the place looks dirty, chances are the food will be contaminated too. Ensure your food is properly cooked, particularly meat. Only drink clean water if you know it's been treated or purified or better still stick to beverages in sealed bottles or cans. Watch out for prepared fruit, veggies and salads that may have not been washed with clean water before sale. Skip the ice in drinks unless you know where the water came from.

Not everyone's personal hygiene is of a high standard but you can make sure yours is as much as possible. Always wash your hands with clean water and soap prior to eating and after using the bathroom. Where that isn't possible, use an antibacterial hand gel.

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