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Typhoid fever affects an estimated 22 million people annually and causes 216,000 deaths worldwide. We conducted an investigation in August and September 2010 to examine the acceptability of typhoid vaccine in Neno District, Malawi where a typhoid outbreak was ongoing. We used qualitative methods, including freelisting exercises, key informant and in-depth interviews, and group discussions. Respondents associated illness with exposure to “bad wind,” and transmission was believed to be airborne. Typhoid was considered extremely dangerous because of its rapid spread, the debilitating conditions it produced, the number of related fatalities, and the perception that it was highly contagious. Respondents were skeptical about the effectiveness of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) interventions. The perceived severity of typhoid and fear of exposure, uncertainty about the effectiveness of WaSH measures, and widespread belief in the efficacy of vaccines in preventing disease resulted in an overwhelming interest in receiving typhoid vaccine during an outbreak.
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