November 19th celebrates an underappreciated but life-saving invention: the toilet/ Although many inventions have led to significant improvements in public health- water chlorination, antibiotics, and vaccines, among many others- no other invention has had a greater impact than the toilet.

Human waste can carry viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that cause diarrheal and enteric disease, including typhoid fever. By reducing the interaction between people and their waste products, the humble toilet saves hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Typhoid infections in particular can be largely eliminated through improved water and sanitation systems, like those used in industrialized countries. However, the development of such infrastructure requires significant capital investments beyond the near-term reach of most developing countries. This World Toilet Day, fight typhoid by advocating for equal access to improved sanitation: sign the petition, spread the word, or organize an event in your community to promote sanitation.

Typhoid fever is a severe bacterial infection spread through water or food contaminated with human waste. The disease causes high fever, flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, rose-colored spots on the chest, and systemic illness that can result in severe morbidity or death. The World Health Organization estimates that 21 million people are stricken with typhoid fever annually, resulting in at least 200,000 deaths per year, predominantly among school-age and preschool-age children.

While typhoid remains a global problem, the burden of disease is greatest among children living in poverty throughout Asia and Africa, most of whom live in crowded and unsanitary conditions without access to safe water or basic sanitation. Typhoid control requires a comprehensive approach that combines immediate measures, such as access to appropriate treatment and the vaccination of high-risk populations, with sustainable long-term solutions, like access to safe water, basic sanitation and promotion of good hygiene practices, including handwashing.

In recognition of the need for advocacy around typhoid fever and other diseases of poverty, the Coalition against Typhoid (CaT) was launched one year ago to raise awareness of the tremendous public health burden related to typhoid, a disease with a disproportionate impact upon children living in poverty. CaT is a global forum of scientists and immunization experts working to save lives and reduce suffering by advancing a comprehensive and integrated typhoid control strategy in endemic countries through sustained advocacy, consultation, collaboration, and coordination.

Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right. Do your part to recognize World Toilet Day and stop the spread of typhoid fever and other devastating diseases.

Find out more about World Toilet Day at: http://toiletday.org/