Typhoid fever is a bacterialinfection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal.

It's caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi, which is related to the bacteria that cause salmonella Food poisoning .

Typhoid fever is highly contagious. An infected person can pass the bacteria out of their body in their stools (faeces) or, less commonly, in their urine.

If someone else eats food or drinks water that's been contaminated with a small amount of infected faeces or urine, they canbecome infected with the bacteria and developtyphoid fever.

This may be because their immune system (the body's natural defence against infection and illness) is still developing. However, children with typhoid fever tend to have milder symptoms than adults.

Typhoid fever is uncommon in the UK, with anestimated 500 cases occurring each year. In most of these cases, the person developed the infection while visiting relatives in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. However, you're also at risk of developing the infection if you visit Asia, Africa and South America.

Signs and symptoms of typhoid fever

Commonsymptoms of typhoid fever include:

  • ahigh temperature that can reach 39-40C (103-104F)
  • stomach pain
  • headache
  • constipation or diarrhoea

If typhoid fever isn't treated, the symptoms will continue to get worse over the following weeks and the risk of developing potentially fatal complications will increase.

If diagnosed at an early stage, the infection is likely to be mild and can usually be treated at home with a 7- to 14-day course of antibiotic tablets.

More serious cases of typhoid fever usually require admission to hospital, so antibiotic injections can be given.

With prompt antibiotic treatment, most people will start to feel better within a few days and serious complications are very rare. Deaths from typhoid fever are now virtually unheard of in the UK.

If typhoid fever isn't treated, it's estimated that up to one in five people with the conditionwill die. Some of those who survive will have complications caused bythe infection.

These involve either having a single injection or taking threecapsules over alternate days.

Vaccination is recommended for anyone planning to travel to parts of the world where typhoid fever is widespread (see below). It's particularly important if you're planning to live or work closely with local people.

However, as neither vaccine offers 100% protection, it's also important to follow some precautions when travelling. For example, you should only drink bottled or boiled water, and avoid foods that could potentially be contaminated.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Nov 2016