Vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended if you're travelling to parts of the world where the condition is common.
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
- South and South East Asia
- South America
- the Middle East
- 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.