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What Is Typhoid Fever?
Typhoid fever is a serious, sometimes fatal, illness caused by a bacteria called Salmonella typhi. These bacteria are spread through contaminated food, drink, or water and can spread from person to person. They thrive in places with poor sanitation. Symptoms can include chills and fever (which can exceed 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit), headache, tiredness, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach pains, constipation, or diarrhea.
Typhoid fever is very rare in the United States, with only about 400 Americans per year acquiring it, most after traveling to developing countries, according to the CDC.
Your risk of becoming ill with typhoid fever is greater if:
- You'll be traveling to remote, non-U.S. locations.
- You'll be eating and drinking in places where food and drink may be contaminated because of sanitation problems.
- You have a weakened immune system - for example, if you have AIDS, are HIV positive, or are having chemotherapy.
- You have low levels of gastric acid - for example, if you have had a gastrectomy, or if you take antacids or medications for ulcers.
If you're visiting developing countries or other locations where typhoid fever is common, consider these important guidelines:
- Follow strict food and water precautions while traveling.
- Ensure all food is well cooked, especially meat and seafood.
- Consume only canned or commercially bottled drinks.
- Ensure ice cubes are made from purified water.
- Eat only fruits and vegetables that you wash and peel yourself.
- Avoid cold cuts, salads, watermelon, and puddings when traveling in non-U.S. destinations.
- If traveling to an area where typhoid is common, get a vaccine to reduce your risk of becoming ill.
Vaccination is especially important if travelers will be in smaller cities, villages, or rural areas off the usual tourist itineraries or have prolonged exposure to potentially contaminated food and drink. Currently, there are two typhoid vaccines available in the United States. Please consult your travel physician to determine which vaccine is right for you.
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