Taiwan health officials are advising the public to pay attention to food sanitation when traveling to areas where typhoid is endemic after reporting a typhoid cluster, the first of the year (computer translated).

Salmonella serotype Typhi
Typhoid image/CDC

The cluster includes a new immigrant woman and her eldest son, visited Indonesia from Aug. 6 to Aug. 19. The husband and youngest son, who traveled to the same area, were not infected.

It is reported that they drank bottled water the whole time in Indonesia; however, they consumed homegrown vegetables which were cooked using well water. Health officials say they were probably exposed due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

Typhoid fever is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Salmonella typhi lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed S.typhi in their feces.

You can get typhoid fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding S. typhi or if sewage contaminated with S. typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in areas of the world where handwashing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage.

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Typhoid fever can be successfully treated with appropriate antibiotics, and persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days.