Safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions are critical to preventing the spread of typhoid. Typhoid is spread via the fecal-oral route, because the bacteria can pass into people’s mouths through food, water, hands, or objects that have been contaminated with fecal matter. Solutions such as water treatment or filtration, installation and management of toilets and sanitation systems, and education about proper handwashing and food-handling practices can save lives and protect people from typhoid infection.
Safely managed water and sanitation
Around the world, 844 million people still lack access to basic drinking water services and 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services (e.g., toilets). These communities are at higher risk for typhoid and other waterborne diseases like diarrheal infections, polio, and hepatitis A. By safely separating waste from water sources used for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning, or swimming, and ensuring that water is treated and free of contamination, we can help prevent the spread of typhoid along with many other diseases.
Because typhoid bacteria can also spread from fecal matter to hands and get into food, proper food-handling and hygiene practices—including handwashing with soap and water at key times, and boiling or treating food and beverages—play a large role in the prevention of typhoid. In Kampala, Uganda, for example, contaminated water and passion fruit juice that had been sold in public markets caused a large typhoid outbreak in 2015. The government was able to help stop the outbreak through water treatment products and education about avoiding untreated beverages.
An integrated solution
WASH interventions are a key part of the integrated package of solutions required to take on typhoid, but no one intervention can solve the problem alone. Given the significant burden of typhoid among hard-to-reach, high-risk populations where WASH progress may be slow, the role of preventive vaccines alongside WASH interventions becomes even more critical. While we work to advance WASH interventions and improvements to protect people in the long term, vaccines can help protect children now.
Photo: Sabin Vaccine Institute/Suvra Kanti Das