The Tonga Ministry of Health has reported eleven typhoid cases since January, including five cases from the village of Veitongo, according to a Radio New Zealand report today.

Tonga Image/CIA

This has prompted health officials to temporarily ban kava drinking in public halls in an effort to get the outbreak under control. In addition, the health ministry also imposed a month long ban on making food for public gatherings such as funerals.

The news comes as Auckland, New Zealand battles a typhoid outbreak that as of today has sickened 20 and killed one.

Typhoid fever, caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, is a life-threatening bacterial infection. Typhoid fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 21 million people annually.

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.

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

Dr Sinclair says good basic hand-washing is one of the best means of protecting yourself.

Learn more about typhoid fever in this educational video