Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever is an infection that can make your child very ill. If your child has typhoid, you need to see a doctor urgently. Without immediate treatment, your child could have serious complications or even die.

Key points to remember about typhoid fever

If you think your child has typhoid fever, see a doctor urgently.

  • typhoid fever is a disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi
  • most people with typhoid fever in New Zealand have caught the disease overseas, especially countries in the Pacific and South-East Asia
  • children are more at risk of getting typhoid fever than adults
  • if you think your child has typhoid fever, see a doctor urgently

What is typhoid fever?

Typhoid fever (or just typhoid) is a disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. Most people with typhoid fever in New Zealand have caught the disease while travelling overseas, especially countries in the Pacific.

Paratyphoid fever is a similar illness to typhoid fever. It is caused by Salmonella paratyphi.

How common is typhoid fever?

Typhoid fever is rare in New Zealand, with about 40 known cases a year. Children are more at risk of getting typhoid fever.

How do you catch typhoid fever?

Typhoid bacteria is found in the poo of infected people. People catch typhoid fever if they come in to contact with this poo.

Eating or drinking contaminated food or water

Your child can get typhoid fever from drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the typhoid bacteria.

This can happen if food or drink is handled by someone with typhoid fever or who is a carrier of the bacteria.

Eating shellfish from beds that are contaminated with raw sewerage can cause typhoid fever.

Contact with infected poo

Typhoid fever easily passes from one person to another if people don't wash their hands properly.

You can get the bacteria from changing nappies of a baby with typhoid fever.

Carriers

Some people who have typhoid fever do not get sick but they can still carry the bacteria and make others sick.

What are the symptoms of typhoid fever?

Once your child is infected, it usually takes 1-3 weeks for symptoms to develop. It can take from 3 days to over 60 days to develop symptoms.

The illness starts slowly with fevers, chills (feeling cold and shivery). Your child could have a temperature of up to 39 to 40 degrees Celsius.

Other symptoms include:

  • headache
  • feeling sick
  • not feeling like eating
  • tiredness
  • a rash made up of small pink spots on your child's chest and tummy
  • tummy pain
  • constipation (more common in adults)
  • diarrhoea
  • confusion, such as your child not knowing where they are or what's going on around them

If you think your child has typhoid fever, see your family doctor straightaway.

How serious is typhoid fever?

Typhoid fever is often severe. Most children and adults have to spend time in hospital.

How is typhoid fever diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask if you have been overseas recently. They will also ask your child to do a blood test and/or provide a poo sample.

What is the treatment for typhoid fever?

Don't stop antibiotics when your child starts to feel well as they might get sick again.

The treatment for typhoid fever is antibiotics. Make sure your child takes all of their antibiotics. Don't stop when they start to feel well as they might get sick again.

If your child's symptoms are milder, they can recover at home and they should feel better in a few days. If your child's symptoms get worse, see your doctor urgently.

If your child has severe symptoms, such as vomiting that doesn't stop, severe diarrhoea or a swollen tummy, your child may need to go to hospital.

If you don't get treatment straightaway, your child could have serious complications or even die.

What are the complications of typhoid fever?

Complications include:

  • internal bleeding
  • a hole in your digestive system
  • meningitis inflammation
  • infection of other organs

See information about typhoid fever in Samoan at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website. The information is about typhoid fever in both adults and children.

If my child has typhoid fever, how do I prevent it from spreading?

  • make sure your child always washes and dries their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet
  • give your child their own hand towel or paper towels and face cloth so they don't share with others
  • put paper hand towels in a bag and put the bag straight out with the rubbish
  • if your baby has typhoid fever, clean and dry your hands thoroughly after changing their nappy
  • wash hand towels regularly
  • wash soiled clothing and linen separately in hot soapy water
  • don't let your child touch or prepare food for other people

When can my child go back to school or daycare after typhoid fever?

Your child will need to stay home until at least 48 hours after symptoms stop. Children who go to daycare will need to give extra poo samples to make sure the bacteria has gone before they go back to daycare. Older children may also need to provide poo samples before being allowed to go back to school. 

Some children get sick again about a week after they finish their antibiotics. If your child starts to feel sick again, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Can I immunise my child against typhoid fever?

Visit the Safe Travel website before you travel for information on the latest outbreaks.

Yes, if you are travelling to one of the countries where the rates of typhoid are high, talk to your doctor about immunisations for your child before you go. Typhoid immunisation is only for children over 12 months and there will be a cost for this. Talk to your family doctor, or a travel medicine doctor for more information.

The countries where the rates of typhoid are high are:

  • Pacific Islands
  • India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • South-East Asian countries
  • Central and South America
  • the Caribbean
  • African countries
  • Middle Eastern countries

Visit the Safe Travel website before you travel for information on the latest outbreaks.

How can I protect my child from infection while travelling to countries where there is typhoid fever?

  • do not drink unsafe water, including ice and drinks mixed with water 
  • do not eat from street stalls
  • ensure hot food is well cooked and eaten while still hot
  • do not eat uncooked food including fruit and vegetables (unless you can peel them yourself) and uncooked seafood 
  • do not eat and drink unpasteurised milk or dairy foods 
  • drink bottled water or boil drinking water if you are unsure if it's safe

Regional Public Health. http://www.rph.org.nz/public-health-topics/illness-and-disease/typhoid-fever/typhoid-fever-factsheet.pdf (PDF, 282KB) [Accessed 3/04/2019]

Health Navigator. https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/t/typhoid/ [Accessed 3/04/2019]

Toi Te Ora Public Health. https://www.toiteora.govt.nz/typhoid

Auckland Regional Public Health Service. https://www.arphs.health.nz/our-resources/fact-sheet-typhoid-and-paratyphoid/ (English and Samoan versions available). [Accessed 3/04/2019]

This page last reviewed 26 June 2019.
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