Avoiding Typhoid Fever

Most of my travel is to developing countries. To me there is nothing better than planning a trip to a far off land. Like most travelers I spend hours in mapping my course, determining what sites I will visit and where I will stay. Even shopping for the proper clothing can be exhilarating.

However along with romance of the third world comes the very real possibility of getting sick. Nothing puts a damper on an expedition like getting ill. In the past most vaccines were given as shots. Now, more often than not, vaccines are available in an oral option.

One of the most contagious illnesses still common in countries outside the industrial world is Typhoid Fever. Humans are the only ones that carry or transfer Salmonella Typhi. This bacterium is easily transferred from individuals who are carriers or who are currently sick with the fever. The bacteria are transferred from individual to individual either through blood or fecal matter. One of the biggest risks is digesting food that has been handled by the carrier.

I have found that regardless if you are staying in a 5 star hotel, or in the bush, hygiene standards and food preparation standards are not as stringent as in the U.S. So make certain all of your food is washed, however the tricky part here is knowing what water has been used to wash what you are about to eat. If in doubt, my advice is to pass.

Symptoms of Typhoid Fever are high temperatures, stomach pain, headache and loss of appetite. On some individuals, rose colored spots may become apparent.

Shockingly, these are only the initial stages as the symptoms take on an alarming rise where patients start coughing violently on a regular basis and spitting blood becomes common and within a few weeks, liver supplements are the only think that make up your menu.

Other than completely avoiding any suspect food or drink the other option is to get vaccinated. The Center for Disease Control suggests doing both. In my opinion avoiding local cuisine and customs prevents the traveler from truly experiencing the area they are visiting. That being said, it makes getting the vaccine paramount.

At one time the vaccine for Typhoid was given by injection only. It is actually still available in that form. However, for those of us that are still skittish around needles a newer capsule form is available.

The following are the differences between the two forms of vaccine.

  1. Injection –
    This tried and true method requires a bit more planning.
    a. Must be received 2 weeks prior to travel b. Only one injection is required
    c. A booster is needed every 2 years d. Children as young as 2 years of age may receive the vaccine   
  2. 2. Oral Capsule –
    New and advanced vaccine
    a. May be taken only 1 week prior to departure
    b. A booster is only required every 5 years
    c. Four doses are required, one every other day for a week
    d. Children must be at least 6 years of age to receive the vaccine.

Typhoid Fever is preventable and should not act as a deterrent to visiting a country or continent that you have longed to explore. Like the rest of your trip, details are important. Make certain that you have the proper vaccines before setting foot on foreign soil. Information on typhoid and other preventable diseases is easily obtained from your doctor, travel clinic or the CDC.