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Typhoid Fever

What is Typhoid Fever?

Typhoid fever is a disease caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi. In New Zealand there are very few cases of typhoid fever. In the Auckland region from 2002 to 2012, on average 27 cases were investigated per year. The majority of cases are infected while travelling overseas.

How do you get Typhoid Fever?

By eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with faeces or urine from a person who has the illness or who may be a carrier of the bacteria. Untreated water supplies, or shellfish gathered from areas where water is contaminated are also potential sources of infection.

What are the symptoms?

Typhoid infection usually begins with a fever occurring up to 60 days after infection. If the infection gets into the bloodstream it can cause an illness with fever, headache and possibly a rash. The fever may last a week or more. Gastro-intestinal symptoms may not occur until 2-3 weeks into the illness and include abdominal pain (20-40%), constipation (38%), diarrhoea (10%).

How is Typhoid Fever diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose typhoid fever is to take a blood test. The bacteria can be grown from the blood in the early stages of the illness. Bacteria may continue to be found in bowel motions for weeks after the initial illness. A faeces test may be useful even in those with no diarrhoea.

How is Typhoid Fever treated?

Hospital admission is common. Antibiotics are recommended for patients who are very unwell, to treat a fever or persistent diarrhoea and may be used for those who are employed on high risk occupations such as food handling, early childhood services or health care, or children attending day care. Relapse after treatment does occur from time to time. If this occurs the patient should see a GP.

How can Typhoid Fever be prevented?

  • Wash and dry hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing nappies. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds and dried for a further 20 seconds using a clean cloth or disposable towel.
  • Soiled clothing and linen should be washed with hot soapy water separately from that of other family members. Items such as face cloths and towels should be kept for personal use.
  • A person with typhoid infection should avoid preparing food for others in the family until they are no longer infectious. In households where a person is recovering from typhoid, toilet seats, flush handles, wash taps and toilet door handles should be disinfected daily using a hypochlorite based solution. Ideally the solution should be in contact with the surface of the object for at least ½ an hour.
  • Patients who work as food handlers, in childcare or healthcare or who are children, may be required to stay at home until they have been cleared by Public Health, of carrying Salmonella typhi.

What does the Public Health Service do?

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) receives notification of all cases of typhoid fever and is responsible for investigating the source of the illness and preventing its spread.

If you have any concerns please contact Auckland Regional Public Health Service on (09) 623 4600.

Fact Sheets

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