There are an astounding 21 million cases of typhoid fever globally every year, but what exactly is this nasty infection and how can you avoid it?

Put simply, typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the whole body, and impacts on the function of many organs.

If not treated promptly, typhoid fever can cause severe complications and can even be fatal. If you’re travelling this summer, it’s important you know all there is to discover about typhoid fever, including what symptoms to look out for, how to treat it and how to avoid it.

What causes typhoid fever?

The infection itself is caused by Salmonella typhi. This is a bacterium related to the bacteria which causes salmonella food poisoning.

Once an individual develops typhoid fever, it becomes extremely contagious. The bacteria is most often passed through an infected person’s faeces or — less commonly — their urine. Food and drink becomes contaminated with small amounts of infected waste, causing anyone who consumes the food or drink to ingest the bacteria and develop typhoid fever.

Due to the nature of the infection, typhoid fever is most common in areas with limited access to clean water. The most high-risk areas for typhoid fever include the Indian subcontinent, Africa, South and South-East Asia and South America.

Children are more at risk of developing typhoid fever than adults, with the average age of sufferers being 14, due to the fact that children’s immune systems are still in development. However, children tend to suffer from milder symptoms than adults.

In the UK, typhoid fever is uncommon. There are only 500 cases of the infection each year, with most being the result of residents visiting family in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh where the problem is significantly more widespread.

What are the symptoms of typhoid fever?

As with many infections, symptoms of typhoid fever become worse the longer the patient suffers from them. Common symptoms of the illness include a high temperature (reaching up to 40 degrees centigrade), stomach pains, severe headaches, constipation, diarrhoea, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea, the development of a rash, exhaustion and even confusion.

Symptoms will grow worse over the course of weeks without treatment, increasing the risk of fatal complications occurring.

How do you treat typhoid fever?

If typhoid fever develops, antibiotics are required as soon as possible. If the fever is diagnosed in its early stages, the infection is more likely to be mild and will therefore probably be treatable with an at-home 7- to 14-day course of antibiotic tablets.

As cases become more serious, hospital admission will likely be required so that antibiotic injections can be administered. With prompt treatment, cases of the fever will improve within 3 to 5 days and serious complications are very rare. In the UK, deaths from typhoid fever are essentially unheard of. However, if left untreated then a fifth of fever sufferers will die, and survivors may have complications.

How can you avoid typhoid fever?

When travelling in countries where typhoid fever is more common, there are a few precautions you can take to lower your risk of infection, including drinking only bottled or boiled water and avoiding foods which could potentially be contaminated. You should also be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after every bathroom visit and before every meal.

However, the best way to protect yourself against typhoid is through vaccination. Vaccines can be administered as either a single injection or by taking three capsules over alternate days. If you’re travelling to a part of the world where typhoid is widespread, it’s highly recommended that you receive a vaccination, especially if you plan to live or work closely with locals.

In the UK, there are two vaccines that protect against typhoid fever. Both of these vaccinations are available from Express Travel Clinic.

If you’re planning on travelling this summer, make sure you do it safely. Contact Express Travel Clinic today on 0208 993 5889 and book an appointment.