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Typhoid and paratyphoid

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Typhoid and paratyphoid are illnesses caused by 2 different species of Salmonella bacteria.
  • Typhoid can become life-threatening if it is not treated.
  • Symptoms of both illnesses include fever, abdominal pain and headache.
  • The bacteria that causes typhoid and paratyphoid is commonly spread through sewage contaminated food and water.
  • Vaccination is recommended for people travelling to areas where typhoid is present and where food and water may be contaminated.

What are typhoid and paratyphoid?

Typhoid is a life-threatening illnesses caused by salmonella typhi bacteria.

Paratyphoid is a life-threatening illness caused by salmonella paratyphi bacteria.

Usually, they are spread through consuming water or food that is contaminated by sewage.

Typhoid and paratyphoid fever are most common in parts of the world that have poor sanitation and limited access to clean water, particularly parts of India, Africa, Asia, South and Central America and the Middle East.

What are the symptoms of typhoid and paratyphoid?

Typhoid and paratyphoid have similar symptoms, but paratyphoid is milder. The symptoms of both illnesses generally develop gradually, often appearing 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.

Symptoms include:

Sometimes, symptoms include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • nosebleeds
  • cough
  • confusion or delirium.
  • swollen abdomen (tummy)
  • enlarged liver or spleen

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the feeling sick or unwell Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Who is at risk of typhoid and paratyphoid?

People who are at risk of getting infected with typhoid and paratyphoid include:

  • close contacts of an infected person
  • people who live or travel to or from areas where typhoid and paratyphoid are widespread
  • young children are at greater risk of infection than adults

What causes typhoid and paratyphoid?

Typhoid and paratyphoid are caused by 2 different species of Salmonella bacteria: Salmonella typhi (typhoid) and Salmonella paratyphi (paratyphoid).

These bacteria are usually found in sewage contaminated water and food. They can also be in contaminated urine or faeces (poo), and may be transmitted through person-to-person contaminated or touching contaminated surfaces such as taps, toilets, cutlery, toys and nappies.

How are typhoid and paratyphoid diagnosed?

If you suspect you might have typhoid or paratyphoid, see your doctor immediately, especially if you have visited a high-risk country. A sample of your urine, faeces or blood will be tested for Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How are typhoid and paratyphoid treated?

Without treatment, typhoid and paratyphoid fever can be life-threatening. Treatment includes drinking plenty of water or oral rehydration drinks (e.g. Gastrolyte or Hydrolyte) and taking antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Can typhoid and paratyphoid be prevented?

When travelling to developing countries, you can reduce your risk of infection by:

  • eating only cooked, boiled or peeled food
  • drinking only bottled or purified water — avoid ice in cold drinks
  • avoiding raw food, cold seafood and meat, salads and unpasteurised dairy products
  • regularly washing your hands with soap (or hand sanitiser), especially after using the toilet and before eating

There are vaccines for typhoid, both oral and by injection, which provide some protection for travellers to high-risk countries. There is no vaccine for paratyphoid fever.

Typhoid vaccination is recommended for children aged 2 and over and adults travelling to areas where typhoid is present and where food and water may be contaminated. It is also recommended for military personnel and some laboratory workers.

Typhoid vaccine

This table explains how the typhoid vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.

When to get vaccinated? You should consult your doctor or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 and preferably 12 weeks before you leave Australia.
How many doses are required? 1 injection, or 3 or 4 oral doses.
How is it administered? Injection or orally.
Is it free?

No, there is a cost for this vaccine.

Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.

Common side effects The vaccine is very safe. Possible side effects include tummy discomfort, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or a rash.

Resources and support

  • If you’re concerned you or your child may have symptoms of typhoid or paratyphoid fever, see your doctor or use healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to find out what to do next.
  • For more information on typhoid and paratyphoid fever in Australia, visit the Department of Health web page.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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