Do You Need the Typhoid Fever Vaccine?
Many travellers believe that they need the typhoid vaccine for most travel destinations. Do you think you need the typhoid vaccine? Depending on your destination and itinerary you might not need it all! Read on to find out more information about typhoid fever and who should receive the vaccine.
What is typhoid fever?
Typhoid fever is a potentially serious and life-threatening disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. This is not the same type of salmonella that you get from eating undercooked chicken. Typhoid fever is most often spread through food and water contaminated by the feces of infected people who prepare food without properly washing their hands.It is possible for people who are infected with typhoid but don’t have symptoms to pass on the disease to others.
Typhoid fever symptoms
Symptoms can occur between 6-30 days after being infected and can include:
- Gradually increasing fatigue and fever
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Rash of rose-coloured spots on the torso
If treated with antibiotics more than 99% of people with typhoid fever will recover, although increasing resistance to antibiotics is making treatment more complicated. After symptoms resolve a person can still be carrying the typhoid bacteria so could continue to pass it onto others. If typhoid is left untreated it can lead to serious bleeding in the intestines which can be life threatening. Typhoid fever can lead to death in up to 20% of people left untreated.
Where is typhoid a risk?
There are an estimated 26 million cases of typhoid fever worldwide each year. The risk of typhoid is high in countries with endemic typhoid disease and poor access to safe food, water, and sanitation. The highest risk for typhoid fever is in southern Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh). Other areas of risk include East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Who should have the typhoid vaccine?
Most travellers to high risk destinations in southern Asia should have the typhoid vaccine. The vaccine should also be considered for travel to other risk areas mentioned above, depending on a traveller’s planned itinerary. The risk for travellers increases with duration of stay, for those visiting friends and relatives, for those visiting smaller villages and rural areas, and for those with adventurous eating habits. If any of those factors apply to your trip then you may need typhoid vaccine! Going to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean? This is a low risk trip and you do not need the typhoid vaccine!
What are the typhoid vaccine options?
Two types of vaccines are available to help prevent typhoid fever:
- Oral vaccine (by mouth) – given as a series of 4 doses in capsule form and offers protection for 5 years (approved for individuals 6 years of age and older).
- Injection – a single dose that offers protection for 2 years (approved for individuals 2 years of age and older).
Reactions to both vaccines are usually mild and temporary. Possible reactions to the oral vaccine may include abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and rash. Reactions to the injection most often include redness, soreness, and tenderness at the injection site as well as fever and headache.
Think you should have the typhoid vaccine? Book a pre-travel consultation!
Travellers interested in being vaccinated for typhoid need to book a pre-travel consultation. During the consultation the doctor or nurse will help you determine if the typhoid vaccine is needed for your trip. The oral vaccine is not suitable for everyone, so the doctor or nurse will determine if it is right for you.
Don’t forget: the typhoid vaccine is not 100% effective so in addition to receiving the typhoid vaccine it is also important to follow strict food and water precautions and wash your hands frequently to prevent typhoid fever.
TravelSafe Clinical Educator – Kristin Cain, RN, BSc, MSc(A)