Typhoid is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria infecting the body. Symptoms of typhoid can be mild, including headache and fever, but without prompt typhoid treatment serious complications can occur. Antibiotics can be used in typhoid treatment, but there is no guaranteed cure. Typhoid prevention includes a vaccine.

Risk areas
South Asia, Africa, South America
People at highest risk
Worldwide cases a year
11 to 21 million
Worldwide deaths a year
128,000 to 161,000

01. Causes of typhoid

Typhoid causes a bacteria to spread through the body, infecting your organs and making you very unwell.

Typhoid is contagious and is spread through infected faeces and urine. Therefore it is important that you practice good hygiene and check if you need the vaccine before travelling to risk areas.  

Other typhoid causes can include eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with a small amount of infected faeces or urine.

To avoid typhoid transmission, it is important to be vigilant when choosing food and drinks in risk areas, and only buy from vendors that appear clean and reputable.

02. Risk areas

Typhoid fever is most common in parts of the world that have limited access to clean water and inadequate toilet facilities.

Typhoid prevention, such as being vaccinated, is especially important in these areas.

Cases of typhoid fever are uncommon in the UK, with only 500 people affected each year. In most of these cases, the typhoid infection was developed while visiting relatives in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan.

Travellers are most at risk of typhoid when visiting South Asia, Africa or South America.

However, outbreaks can occur anywhere in the world if someone infected with typhoid travels to a different country and infects others. This means that the typhoid risk can change.

Check if the country you are travelling to has a risk of typhoid through the search bar below.

03. Symptoms of typhoid

Symptoms of typhoid usually develop one or two weeks after a person becomes infected.

Initial symptoms of typhoid can include:

  • fever

  • headache

  • general aches and pains

  • cough

  • constipation

With typhoid treatment, the symptoms of typhoid fever should improve within three to five days. If typhoid fever is not treated quickly, it will usually get worse within a few weeks.

Later symptoms of typhoid can include:

  • appetite loss

  • feeling sick

  • stomach ache and swelling

  • diarrhoea

  • a rash

Typhoid causes life-threatening complications in a small number of cases, including internal bleeding and multiple organ failure. The complications are more likely to occur in people who do not see a doctor quickly.

04. Diagnosis of typhoid

If you think you have typhoid, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor will ask you different questions to find out whether you have been travelling to a risk area, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has been to one of these areas recently.

Moreover, the doctor may want to take samples of your blood, faeces or urine and get it tested in a lab to help diagnose the type of typhoid fever you have.

If it is confirmed that you have typhoid fever, the doctor may want to test the people you live with to make sure that they are not infected.

05. Treatment of typhoid

There is no guaranteed typhoid cure, but you can recover with effective typhoid treatment, which includes antibiotics and other medicines.

If typhoid is diagnosed early, you may only need to take antibiotics for seven to 14 days while recovering at home.

If recovering at home, your typhoid treatment may also include:

  • rest

  • plenty of fluids

  • regular small meals

  • regular hand washing

  • speaking with your doctor if symptoms worsen or re-occur

  • staying off school or work, if needed

A stay in hospital is usually recommended if you have severe symptoms of typhoid fever.

If recovering in hospital, your typhoid treatment may include:

  • antibiotic injections

  • fluids and nutrients given through a tube (IV) in your vein

  • surgery for internal bleeding or other complications

Most people respond well to hospital typhoid treatment and improve within three to five days, but it may be several weeks until you are well enough to return home.

06. Relapses of typhoid and further tests

Some people, who get typhoid treatment, experience a relapse, which is when typhoid symptoms return. This can occur about a week after antibiotic treatment has finished.

If this happens, you should see your doctor as soon as possible as further typhoid treatment with antibiotics is usually needed.

After your symptoms have passed, you should have a test to check whether the typhoid infection has completely cleared from your body.

Some people may feel fully recovered while tests show they are still carrying the typhoid infection, meaning they are still contagious.

You must continue to take antibiotics until tests show you are free of the bacteria, even if you feel well. This can take a few months.

07. Prevention of typhoid

There are many things you can do to decrease your risk of becoming infected with typhoid fever, including having the vaccine.

If you need to get vaccinated for typhoid, you can book a vaccination appointment online today.

If you are unsure if the typhoid vaccine is right for you, book a free telephone consultation to speak to one of our prescribing nurses, who can give you a personal recommendation based on your health and travel plans.

For effective typhoid prevention while travelling in risk areas, it is recommended that you:

  • check if you need the typhoid vaccine

  • learn about typhoid symptoms so you can spot the signs

  • avoid contact with anyone infected with typhoid fever

  • ensure good personal hygiene

  • wash hands with soap and water or alcohol hand gel

  • avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth

  • are vigilant when choosing food and drink

  • take extra care if you are in contact with babies  

  • dispose nappies and wipes carefully

Content reviewed by

Anne Marie Major, Independent Nurse Prescriber
24 June 2019