Typhoid is a common worldwide bacterial disease transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella typhi. This bacterium is different to the more commonly known Salmonella, which is caused by under-cooked food. For Australians, typhoid is most commonly contracted when travelling overseas.1
Typhoid is most common when travelling in South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent or the South Pacific. Because typhoid is ingested through contaminated food or water, all travelers to these areas are potentially at risk. Symptoms vary in severity, but they usually develop within one to three weeks after exposure to the bacteria. People infected with typhoid suffer from high fever, severe headaches, nausea and an enlarged spleen and liver. Constipation or diarrhea, a rash of rose-coloured spots on the chest and a general feeling of unwell are also common symptoms. 1,2
Typhoid is spread by poor sanitation and hygiene or untreated water. For example, it can be spread by an infected person preparing a meal in a restaurant. In Australia, typhoid is predominantly a travel- related disease. There is greater risk for travellers visiting the Indian subcontinent, particularly those who travel to regions where typhoid is prevalent.
Some people, known as carriers, continue to carry the bacteria even after symptoms have resolved. Transmission usually occurs when food and water contaminated by faeces are ingested. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in less developed countries with poor sanitation, poor hand hygiene and food handling standards, and untreated drinking water. Raw fruits and vegetables and shellfish are the types of foods most often associated with illness. Flies may also transfer the bacteria to food. 2,3
Australians can be vaccinated against typhoid before travelling overseas. Travellers are advised to visit their General Practitioner or travel medicine specialist six to eight weeks before travelling overseas to discuss suitable vaccination options.
Australians travelling in countries with increased risk of typhoid should always take extra caution to avoid contaminated food and drinks. Travelers should always drink bottled water and where possible, avoid ice in drinks. Raw foods like salad and fruits that can’t be peeled should also be avoided case in of water contamination.2
Typhoid can be diagnosed by a blood culture or stool test. Typhoid can be treated by antibiotics, although over time the bacterium has built resistance to antibiotics making treatment more complex.2
Urgent medical advice is recommended for the onset of typhoid-like symptoms. For more information related to typhoid and preventative measures, speak to your doctor.