Changes in historical typhoid transmission across 16 U.S. cities, 1889-1931: Quantifying the impact of investments in water and sewer infrastructures


Maile T. Phillips, Katharine A. Owers, Bryan T. Grenfell, Virginia E. Pitzer


Investments in water and sanitation systems are believed to have led to the decline in typhoid fever in developed countries, such that most cases now occur in regions lacking adequate clean water and sanitation. Exploring seasonal and long-term patterns in historical typhoid mortality in the United States can offer deeper understanding of disease drivers. We fit modified Time-series Susceptible-Infectious-Recovered models to city-level weekly mortality counts to estimate seasonal and long-term typhoid transmission. We examined seasonal transmission separately by city and aggregated by water source. Typhoid transmission peaked in late summer/early fall. Seasonality varied by water source, with the greatest variation occurring in cities with reservoirs. We then fit hierarchical regression models to measure associations between long-term transmission and annual financial investments in water and sewer systems. Overall historical $1 per capita ($16.13 in 2017) investments in the water supply were associated with approximately 5% (95% confidence interval: 3–6%) decreases in typhoid transmission, while $1 increases in the overall sewer system investments were associated with estimated 6% (95% confidence interval: 4–9%) decreases. Our findings aid in the understanding of typhoid transmission dynamics and potential impacts of water and sanitation improvements, and can inform cost-effectiveness analyses of interventions to reduce the typhoid burden.

Click here to read the article, published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.