Typhoid is a food and waterborne disease endemic to many countries. It tends to occur in areas with poor sanitation, and outbreaks are more likely in slums or in the aftermath of a disaster. In order to avoid catching typhoid, practice food and water safety and get vaccinated before entering a risk area. The vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease but you should make sure you can spot the symptoms as a small risk of infection remains. Typhoid is a serious disease and needs to be treated without delay.

Which symptoms does typhoid cause?

Typhoid affects your digestive system and can cause digestive problems such as:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

It can also cause a number of other side effects, such as:

  • High temperature or fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Confusion
  • Extreme tiredness/exhaustion

How soon after infection do symptoms start?

Typhoid tends to cause symptoms within one or two weeks of infection. However, in some cases the incubation period (the time between infection and the first symptoms) can be longer and take a few weeks.

Typhoid is treated with antibiotics and symptoms usually resolve within days of starting treatment, provided the disease is diagnosed early on. If typhoid is not treated it can cause serious complications, including internal bleeding, and can be fatal.

What does typhoid rash look like?

Typhoid can cause a rash, which consists of small pink spots which are sometimes referred to as “rose spots”. Each spot tends to last around 3-5 days.

Which other conditions cause the same symptoms?

Typhoid causes similar symptoms to other diseases you can catch abroad, such as hepatitis A or cholera which can also cause digestive problems. The symptoms of typhoid can also be similar to the symptoms of food poisoning.

Does typhoid fever affect your pregnancy?

Catching typhoid during your pregnancy poses a risk to you and your baby. It is best to avoid travel to areas with a typhoid risk while you are pregnant. If you can’t avoid travel to such a region, we recommend you discuss with our travel specialist to consider vaccination.

Can typhoid recur?

In most cases, the symptoms will improve within days of treatment. It is very important that you finish the full course of medication that you have been prescribed to avoid becoming symptomatic again. In a small number of cases, the typhoid bacteria may have developed a resistance to certain antibiotics. If this is the case, you may experience a relapse. To prevent this from happening, your doctor will usually test which type of antibiotic will work best for the strain of typhoid you have before prescribing a treatment.

When to see a doctor

If you have been to a region where there is a risk of typhoid and you develop typhoid symptoms, you should seek medical attention without delay. This also applies if you have had the vaccination.

While it is unlikely that you have contracted typhoid if you have been vaccinated, it is important that a doctor diagnoses your condition to rule out typhoid.

If you develop the symptoms listed above during your travels, or within weeks of your return from a country known to have typhoid outbreaks, speak to your doctor and mention that you have been travelling. Your doctor may also want to test for other diseases which cause similar symptoms if they are known to be prevalent in the countries you have visited.