(Friday, 27th Feb, 2015)
Typhoid fever is a life threatening illnes which is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. It lives in humans and people with the disease carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. A small number of people may recover from typhoid fever but still carry the bacteria.
Typhoid fever is transmitted through food and drink which has been handled by a person who is shedding S. typhi. Another method of transmission is through contaminated water used for drinking or washing food. Once the bacteria is consumed, it multiplies and speads into the blood stream causing high fever, stomach pains, headache or loss of appetite. It may also cause a rash. Diagnosis is based on analysis of a stool or blood sample.
Typhoid fever is common in most parts of the world apart from developed countries such as Western Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and Japan. It is estimated that typhoid affects 12.5 million people each year. Therefore, it is strongly advisable to take precautions if you are travelling to regions where you will be at risk.
The mainstay of prevention is vaccination. You will need to visit your GP or clinic at least one week before travelling in order for the vaccination to work.
However, vaccines may not be fully effective so it is vital to avoid risky foods. Being careful with what you eat and drink will also help protect you from other illnesses such as diarrhoea, hepatitis A, dysentry and cholera.
The phrase Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it! sums up the advice to travellers. Prevention tips include:
If you suspect you have typhoid fever, see a doctor immediately. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease and within 2-3 days, symptoms will subside. However, it is estimated that 20% of those who do not seek treatment die from complications.
It is recommended that people who are being treated for typhoid should:
Your GP or vaccination centre will be able to advise you on the precautions necessary for travel to various regions. Travel vaccination information is also available at www.cdc.gov/travel/. The Tropical Medical Bureau, www.tmb.ie is a useful Irish source of information on travel health.
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