Oklahoma state health officials are investigating a small cluster of typhoid fever in a single family group in Garfield County. Typhoid is uncommon in Oklahoma and is generally acquired during overseas travel.

Salmonella serotype Typhi
Typhoid image/CDC

For the period of 1994 to 2008, 21 cases of typhoid were reported in Oklahoma, according to health department data.

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.

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

Learn more about typhoid fever in this educational video

In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 5,700 cases occur annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Most cases (up to 75%) are acquired while traveling internationally. Typhoid fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 21.5 million persons each year.

If you are traveling to a country where typhoid is common, you should consider being vaccinated against typhoid. Visit a doctor or travel clinic to discuss your vaccination options.

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