Typhoid, the case for constant vigilance

Typhoid cases number from 11 to 20 million with 120,000 to 160,000 deaths each year.[i]

Written history is riddled with stories of diseases infecting populations and spreading quickly in crowded conditions or wherever people are in close contact.

Typhoid stories can be found across the world. In Africa, during the Second Boer War before the turn of the 20th century, the British Army recorded 8,000 deaths from typhoid.[ii] There was a saying about it; that typhoid killed more troops than the battlefields. It may have been true then and for millennia before. Typhoid may have been responsible for the mass population death in Athens in 430 BC and of its famous statesman and general, Pericles. It may also be the cause of the sudden decline of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.[iii]

Typhoid, like cholera and yellow fever, is often thought of as a disease of the past, thanks to medical interventions, hygiene and sanitation improvements. Sadly, it still exists and, under the right conditions or where the disease is endemic, it poses a serious public health threat.

Because typhoid is so contagious, it was a target for vaccine development in the 19th century. In 1896, of those who researched the vaccination Richard Pfeiffer and Almroth Wright and are both credited with the discovery.[iv]

Typhoid, andparatyphoid” a milder form of the disease, often grouped as “enteric fever”, is caused by bacteria passed via infected human faeces or urine in food and water. Symptoms include severe headaches, prolonged fever, sweating, stomach pain, constipation or diarrhoea, lack of appetite, weight loss and feeling generally unwell. In severe cases, there are other symptoms including organ failure.[v]

Today the disease affects less than 200 Australians per year, primarily infected while travelling to countries where typhoid is endemic. It’s a reminder to check if typhoid vaccination is recommended, before travelling. Typhoid can be treated with antibiotics, however, new variants are emerging challenging global health monitoring, medical research and vaccinology to remain vigilant.

[i] WHO Typhoid,serious%20complications%20or%20even%20death.

[ii] The Conversation, Decades of neglecting an ancient disease has triggered a health emergency around the world,

[iii] Smith, Y, Typhoid Fever History,

[iv] Williamson J, Gould K,  Brown K, Richard Pfeiffer’s typhoid vaccine and Almroth Wright’s claim to priority, Vaccine, Vol. April 2021

[v] NSW Health, Typhoid fact sheet,


Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi District, Thailand. Source: tampatra

Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Source: Lithograph by W.L. Walton after Oakley, c.1865. Wellcome Collection

Pericles Gives the Funeral Speech.
Source: Painting by Philipp von Foltz (1852). Wikicommons. Public Domain

Aerial View of Jamestown, Virginia.
Source: 17th Century Painting, Glasshouse Images. Photographer: JT Vintage

1948 – US Army medics oversee treatment of typhoid fever in Japan, and citizens are inoculated against the disease. Source: RetroFootage

Soldiers suffering from typhus, lying in the streets.
Source: Lithograph by E. Leroux after A. Raffet. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

1948 – US Army medics oversee treatment of typhoid fever in Japan, and citizens are inoculated against the disease. Source: RetroFootage

Anti-typhoid vaccination in World war I.
Source: Photograph Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi District, Thailand. Source: tampatra

Typhoid medic 1917. Source: Wikicommons. Public Domain

Close up of african people washing hands in water from a tap. Source: michal812

Children queue for typhoid vaccinations in 1937. Source: Grinberg, Paramount, Pathe Newsreels

Scientist at work, map of locations, 1950s American life: Source: RetroFootage

The national flag of Australia waving in the wind under clear blue sky.
Source: lucidwaters for Kingsland

Bangalore, India – A busy street with running vehicles at the middle of the road in Chickpete Market. Source: Blackboxguild

People walking through an airport late at night. Source: Jakerbreaker

Salmonella Typhimurium infection of a human epithelial cell. Source: David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Passengers using Global Entry at Dulles International Airport. Source: MilMotion for Kingsland



Tell Me A Story (Piano, Documentary, Uplifting, Cinematic, Emotional, Arpeggio).
Source: AudioKraken



Video editor: Grace O’Connell


This video is intended for educational purposes only and not for commercial profit. All images and footage have been selected to represent a concept or time in history and have been chosen to be as accurate as possible.

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