WHO push to cut typhoid deaths

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday urged countries in Southeast and South Asia to adopt the typhoid vaccine after finding the disease kills nearly 200,000 people each year.

"National stakeholders and policymakers should review the evidence and discuss of typhoid vaccines," Dr Lalitha Mendis, chairperson of the Technical Consultative Group on immunisation at WHO's regional office in New Delhi, said.

She spoke at a press conference hosted by the Coalition against Typhoid (CAT), a global forum of scientists and experts working to save lives and reduce suffering by advancing vaccination in high-burden communities.

The briefing was a part of the 15th International Congress on Infectious Diseases (ICID), in collaboration with the Infectious Disease Association of Thailand (IDAT), being held at the Centara Grand in Bangkok for four days until Sunday.

The congress will encourage collaboration to find new solutions to the world's infectious diseases by bringing together clinicians, researchers, microbiologists and epidemiologists working on infectious dis?eases from around the world to share their commitment and expertise.

Typhoid is a severe bacterial infection spread via contaminated water or food with human waste. The disease causes high fever, flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, rose-coloured spots on the chest, and systemic illness that can cause severe morbidity or death.

The WHO estimates that over 21 million people around the world suffer from typhoid and that it causes more than 200,000 deaths annually, predominantly among pre-school and school-age children in developing countries in Asia and Africa. It says 90 per cent of typhoid deaths occur in Asia. India, Indonesia, and Nepal still have high levels of typhoid.

But Thailand has only had 63 cases of typhoid fever this year. While typhoid is a global problem, the burden is greatest on children living in poverty across Asia and Africa, most of who live in crowded and unsanitary conditions without access to safe water or basic sanitation.