Background: Typhoid fever (TF) is a rare disease among travelers to endemic areas, and little is known about its travel-related epidemiology. In addition, efficacy data on TF vaccines in travelers is scanty. During 3 months of 1994/95, six cases of TF were reported in The Netherlands among participants of four package tours to Indonesia provided by the same operator. The present study was designed to describe the epidemiology of TF in these groups, and to assess whether travel groups can be used for studying the efficacy of TF vaccines in travelers.

Method: Questionnaire-based historical cohort study of participants of 4 groups that stayed in the same hotels along their tours (n=156). TF was defined as blood culture-confirmed Salmonella typhi infection. Submitted isolates were typed by antigen and phage typing. Immunization status was considered documented if ascertained by written records.

Results: Among 110 participants (71%), six cases of TF were identified (group specific attack rate AR 5.4%), three of which were from one travel group (AR 12.0%). There were no significant differences by age or sex. Three submitted S. typhi isolates showed three different types, two of which were in the same group. Eighty-three percent of respondents reported documented TF vaccination in the preceding 3 years. All cases occurred in recipients of the oral Ty21a vaccine (AR 10.2%, 95% CI 3.8-20.8%), but differences with nonvaccinees and recipients of the heat-inactivated whole cell or Vi-antigen polysaccharide vaccines were not significant.

Conclusions: Although TF is rare in travelers, infections with different strains of S. typhi can occur in one travel group. Travel groups offer an opportunity for retrospective assessment of vaccine efficacy, provided that equal chance of exposure is largely guaranteed; case ascertainment is maximally specific and similar in the vaccine groups; vaccine status is ascertained accurately; and prior immunity by previous exposures to and use of antibiotics effective against the infection are excluded from, or controlled for in, the analysis.