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October 24, 2008
Fraser Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control recommend that people traveling to countries where typhoid fever is common, see their physician or visit a travel medicine clinic before going abroad. With appropriate precautions, the risk of infection can be reduced significantly.
Typhoid fever rates in Fraser Health have increased by 48% in the last year. Most cases of typhoid fever occur in travelers returning from abroad. This includes visitors to South Asia – a region comprised of India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. On average, more than 80% of typhoid fever cases in Fraser Health are connected with travel to India, mostly to the Punjab state.
The majority of typhoid fever cases in British Columbia are among residents living within the Fraser Health Authority. Many are residents who used to live in India and neighbouring countries, and travel back to visit family and friends during the winter peak travel season. Fraser Health Authority and the BC Centre for Disease Control remind residents that while living in Canada, their level of immunity against diseases like typhoid fever may have dropped. Additionally, children born in Canada and going to visit the Indian subcontinent can be exposed to diseases not commonly found in Canada.
Travelers are exposed to the bacteria that cause typhoid fever by eating contaminated food and drink. Dr. Eleni Galanis, Physician Epidemiologist from the BC Centre for Disease Control (an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority) reminds all travelers, including former residents of the Indian subcontinent, that there are preventive measures that should be taken against typhoid fever. “There is a vaccine available through your family doctor or travel medicine clinics that can help to reduce the risk of infection,” Dr. Galanis points out. “However, the vaccine is not 100% effective so travelers must still be careful about what they eat and drink.”
Travelers should visit their family doctor or a travel medicine clinic prior to going abroad to get immunized and obtain additional information about their destination. “In addition to vaccine for typhoid fever, there are also preventive measures available for other diseases, such as travelers’ diarrhea, hepatitis A and malaria. Travelers should get advice from their doctor or make an appointment with a travel medicine clinic as soon as travel arrangements have been made” recommends Jason Stone, Fraser Health Communicable Disease Practitioner. “Ideally this should be done several months before travel since some vaccines require several doses. No matter how tight your travel timelines - do get the necessary immunization and protection – it could prevent unnecessary illness for you and your loved ones.” Travel advice and vaccines can also help prevent other diseases such as hepatitis A and malaria.For media inquiries, please contact:
BC Centre for Disease Control| 604-812-6750