Travel Medicine (cont.)

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Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever is an infection caused by a bacterium called Salmonella typhi. Most people who get sick develop a headache, a very high fever (up to 103 F or 104 F), and fatigue. Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation may also occur.

The disease spreads when infected human waste contaminates food or water or is otherwise ingested. Some people are able to carry the bacteria inside their body and continue to spread the disease for a very long time. People who get sick may be given antibiotics by their doctor. In addition to the antibiotics, people should make sure they wash their hands so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else.

Typhoid fever occurs in many areas around the world, especially Asia, Africa, and South America. Vaccines are available to reduce the risk of getting typhoid. Ask your doctor or local public-health department about typhoid vaccination before you travel. Food and water precautions (see below) also reduce the risk of disease. The saying "Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!" provides some advice on how to prevent becoming sick with typhoid fever.


Polio is a viral illness that can lead to severe neuromuscular problems. Polio is spread from person to person. Infected secretions and feces can cause disease. Many people have no symptoms, but some have neurological problems such as weakness and paralysis. Symptoms are especially severe if they involve the breathing muscles.

Thanks to a major public-health campaign, many countries no longer have polio. A few countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East still have outbreaks. The list of infected countries is constantly changing, as some countries successfully eliminate the infection and others become reinfected. Check with the CDC web site ( for an updated list to see if your itinerary includes any of these countries.

The inactivated polio vaccine is recommended if the traveler is going to an area where polio is still occurring. A single booster dose in adulthood is sufficient if the traveler has received the usual vaccine series in childhood. If the traveler has not been fully vaccinated in the past (has not received all doses at recommended times), more doses may be needed.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2014

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