Ottawa Public Health is alerting doctors and primary care providers to an "unusual trend" of typhoid fever in Ottawa, and asking them to test and report anyone experiencing symptoms.

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by a type of Salmonella bacteria. The health unit says it's not common in Canada and cases are mostly linked with travel to countries that do not have adequate sewage and water treatment.

On average, there are four cases of internationally acquired typhoid fever reported in Ottawa a year.  

Between October 2018 and February 2022, the health unit received reports of five cases of typhoid fever in Ottawa residents that appear to have been acquired locally. The health unit says the five cases have commonalities and it's monitoring to see if there may be a common source of infection.

This week, Ottawa Public Health sent an alert to primary care providers to notify them of the "unusual trend" of locally acquired typhoid fever.  The health unit is encouraging primary care providers to test and report individuals experiencing signs and symptoms compatible with typhoid fever.

"This is not a cause for alarm or concern among the general public," Dr. Monir Taha, associate medical officer of health, said.

"The risk of typhoid fever is very low in the community as typhoid is not endemic in this area and locally-acquired cases are typically rare."

Symptoms of typhoid fever include high fever, headache, abdominal pain with either constipation or diarrhea, lack of appetite, and a rash.

"Proper hand hygiene and safe food preparation can help to prevent illness from bacteria like Salmonella Typhi, as can immunization prior to travel to endemic areas," Dr. Taha said.

All five people diagnosed with typhoid fever in Ottawa have recovered.