News story

Enteric fever still a risk for travellers visiting friends and relatives in the Indian subcontinent

Enteric fever cases on the decrease for third year running.

placeholder

Latest data published by Public Health England (PHE) show that 312 cases of enteric fever (also known as typhoid and paratyphoid) were reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2013, which is 12% lower than the 354 cases reported in 2012.

Typhoid and paratyphoid are bacterial diseases which are predominantly transmitted through contaminated food and water. They are prevalent in countries with less robust sanitation than the UK. In 2013 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the vast majority of confirmed cases (96%) were acquired abroad, and were mainly in UK travellers (92%) rather than, visitors to the UK or new entrants.

In 2013, 23% of cases were in children aged 16 years and under. London continues to report the largest proportion of cases in England (35%), though has seen a 15% decrease in case numbers in 2013 compared to 2012.

Dr Jane Jones, travel and migrant health expert at PHE said:

Ninety percent of cases in travellers occur in those who are visiting friends and relatives (VFRs), mainly in the country of their ethnic origin and predominantly in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Being born in one of these countries does not give you immunity to enteric fever, and so it is important to take precautions to protect yourself and your children if travelling back to see family.

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC):

We urge all travellers to seek travel health advice, and discuss the need for typhoid vaccination, prior to their trip. Those at higher risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, young children, long-term travellers, and those exposed to conditions of poor sanitation.

Current vaccines against typhoid are only 50 to 80% protective and do not protect against paratyphoid, so all travellers should practise strict food, water and personal hygiene precautions even if vaccinated.

The main symptoms of enteric fever are headache, general aches and pains, fever, cough and constipation. Later symptoms include rash, diarrhoea, stomach discomfort, lack of appetite and nausea. Anyone displaying symptoms of enteric fever, either while abroad or when back in the UK, should seek urgent medical attention.

Since 2003, VFRs has been the second most common reason for travel behind taking holidays.

Information about typhoid is available from the NaTHNaC website.

Published 10 December 2014