Typhoid fever vaccination

Vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended if you're travelling to parts of the world where the condition is common.

High-risk areas

Typhoid is found throughout the world, but it's more likely to occur in areas where there's poor sanitation and hygiene. High-risk areas include:

  • The Indian subcontinent
  • Africa
  • South and South East Asia
  • The Middle East
  • Europe
  • Central America

Vaccination is strongly recommended if you're going to be staying or working with local people, or if you're going to be staying for prolonged periods in areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor.

In the UK, most people who get typhoid fever develop it while visiting India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. It's therefore particularly important that you're vaccinated if you're visiting these countries.

Vaccination against typhoid fever is usually free on the NHS from GP surgeries. Private travel clinics also offer the vaccine for about £30.

Choosing a typhoid vaccine

In the UK, the two main vaccines available to prevent typhoid fever are:

  • Vi vaccine – given as a single injection
  • Ty21a vaccine – given as three capsules to take on alternate days

Combined typhoid and hepatitis A injections are also available for people aged 15 or older. Protection against hepatitis A lasts one year and protection against typhoid lasts three years.

The vaccines work by stimulating your body to create antibodies (infection-fighting proteins) that prevent you getting ill if you become infected with the typhoid bacteria.

It's important to remember that none of the typhoid vaccines are 100% effective, and you should always take precautions when eating food and drinking water abroad (see the advice below about this).

As the Ty21a vaccine contains a live sample of Salmonella typhi bacteria, it isn't suitable for people with a weakened immune system, such as people with HIV or those receiving certain types of treatment, such as chemotherapy. It also isn't usually recommended for children under six, whereas children can have the Vi vaccine from two years of age.

The typhoid vaccine should ideally be given at least one month before you travel, although if necessary it can be given closer to your travel date.

Booster vaccinations are recommended every three years if you continue to be at risk of infection with typhoid bacteria.

Side effects of typhoid fever vaccine

After having the typhoid fever vaccine, some people have temporary soreness, redness, swelling or hardness at the injection site.

About 1 in every 100 people experience a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above. Less common side effects include:

Severe reactions are rare for both typhoid vaccines.

Read more about routine NHS vaccinations.

Advice for travellers

Whether you've been vaccinated against typhoid or not, it's important to take basic precautions when travelling in countries where typhoid fever is present. For example:

About 1 in every 100 people experience a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above. Less common side effects include:

  • Only drink bottled water from a bottle that was properly sealed, or water that's been recently boiled
  • Avoid ice cream and don't have ice in your drinks
  • Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetables, unless you've washed them in safe water or peeled them yourself
  • Avoid shellfish, seafood or salads

Severe reactions are rare for both typhoid vaccines.

Symptoms of typhoid fever

The symptoms of typhoid fever usually develop one or two weeks after a person becomes infected with the Salmonella typhi bacteria.

With treatment, the symptoms of typhoid fever should quickly improve within three to five days.

If typhoid fever isn't treated, it will usually get worse over the course of a few weeks, and there's a significant risk of life-threatening complications of typhoid fever developing. Without treatment, it can take weeks, or even months, to fully recover and symptoms can return.

Common symptoms

Common symptoms of typhoid fever can include:

  • A high temperature, which can reach up to 39-40C (103-104F)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhoea (adults tend to get constipation and children tend to get diarrhoea)
  • A rash made up of small pink spots on the trunk of the body
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion, such as not knowing where you are or what's going on around you

Seeking medical advice

See your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms of typhoid fever (even if you have been vaccinated against it), particularly if you have recently returned from travelling abroad.

It's unlikely that your symptoms will be caused by typhoid fever, but it's best to get them checked out, in case you need treatment.

If you become ill while travelling abroad, you can get help by:

  • Contacting a representative of the travel company you booked with
  • Contacting your travel insurer
  • Contacting the British consulate in the area you're visiting or, if you're feeling very ill, the local emergency services

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides travel advice by country, and the contact details of all the British consulates and embassies in foreign countries.

Before you travel, it's a good idea to make a list of relevant contact details and telephone numbers, in case of an emergency.

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