Typhoid, along with cholera, is one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning that can be contracted on travel in developing countries. It is most common in India, but also occurs in much of South East Asia, as well as the rest of the developing world. It is a family of bacteria, salmonella typhi, of which there are many strains. Being a bacterium it is treatable with antibiotics, but this is becoming increasingly difficult due to widespread antibiotic resistance
The symptoms of the illness consist of a high and persistent fever, abdominal pain, sometimes a rash, and paradoxically, constipation rather than diarrhoea! Untreated it can result in death, though some people can carry the infection and remain well. In fact, it is these carriers who spread the disease through poor hygiene associated with food preparation.
Is there a Typhoid vaccine?
Prevention in the first instance comes down to the basic guidelines for eating and drinking, in particular selecting meals which are freshly prepared, cooked to order, and served hot in a busy and clean environment.
The typhoid vaccine provides further protection and is recommended for most travel to developing countries. Unlike other diseases such as Hepatitis A where there is only one strain of the infection and a very effective vaccine, there are many strains of salmonella typhi and the typhoid vaccine protects against 60-70% them.
A single injection will provide two to three years of cover. A course of capsules can provide up to 5 years of protection. Whilst not providing complete cover, it’s still very important to reduce the risk of a potentially serious disease that is becoming increasingly difficult to treat.