by Diana Kohnle
Typhoid, or typhoid fever, is a serious and potentially fatal illness caused by specific bacteria.
Typhoid can be prevented by a vaccine. Although the typhoid vaccine is effective, it cannot prevent 100% of typhoid infections.
Typhoid fever does occur within the US; however, it is more common in developing countries where water is likely to be contaminated by bacteria. It is important, particularly when traveling in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, to be aware of possible bacteria contamination of food and water.
The bacterium is contracted through drinking water that has been contaminated with sewage. It can also be ingested by eating food that has been washed in bacteria-laden water.
The most common symptoms of typhoid include:
Typhoid is treated with antibiotics. Without treatment, fever and symptoms may continue for weeks or months, and death may occur as a result of complications from the bacterial infection.
There are two types of typhoid vaccines:
The inactivated vaccine is given as a shot. It should not be given to children younger than two years old. A single dose should be given at least 14 days before traveling abroad. Booster shots are needed every two years for those who continue to be in parts of the world where they would be exposed to typhoid fever.
The live typhoid vaccine is given orally. It should not be given to children younger than 6 years old. Four doses, with a day separating each dose, are needed. A booster dose is needed every 5 years.
Although the typhoid vaccine is not given routinely in the US, the following individuals should be vaccinated:
Boosters of the inactive vaccine are required every two years for people at risk of contracting typhoid, and every five years for those at risk who take the oral vaccine.
For maximum effectiveness, the vaccine should be taken 2-3 weeks prior to the potential exposure the bacterium.
Common side effects of the vaccine given by injection include:
Common side effects of the oral vaccine include:
Side effects that may indicate a serious allergic reaction include:
Consult your doctor if you are traveling and are at risk for acquiring typhoid fever, especially if you have any of the above conditions.
Below are some ways to decrease your risk of getting typhoid:
If the suspected cause comes from a commercial food-service facility, the facility and employees should be investigated within 24 hours of determining the suspected source.
If the suspected source is a daycare facility, the facility and employees should be investigated and questioned about recent travel and symptoms.
Also, in the event of an outbreak, government agencies should educate the public on ways to prevent the transmission of typhoid, including proper hygiene habits and careful food preparation.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Family Doctor - American Academy of Family Physicians
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Bhutta ZA, Khan MI, Soofi SB, Ochiai RL. New advances in typhoid Fever vaccination strategies. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2011;697:17-39.
Nelson CB, de Quadros C. Coalition against typhoid: a new, global initiative to advance typhoid vaccination. Vaccine. 2011;29(38):6443.
Typhoid vaccine. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Published May 29, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 6/20/2014