A population-based surveillance for typhoid fever was conducted in three rural communes of Dong Thap Province in southern Vietnam (population 28,329) for a 12-month-period starting on December 4, 1995. Cases of typhoid fever were detected by obtaining blood for culture from residents with fever > or = 3 days. Among 658 blood cultures, 56 (8.5%) were positive for Salmonella typhi with an overall incidence of 198 per 10(5) population per year. The peak occurrence was at the end of the dry season in March and April. The attack rate was highest among 5-9 year-olds (531/10(5)/year), and lowest in > 30 year-olds (39/10(5)/year). The attack rate was 358/10(5)/year in 2-4 year-olds. The isolation of S. typhi from blood cultures was highest (17.4%) in patients with 5 to 6 days of fever. Typhoid fever is highly endemic in Vietnam and is a significant disease in both preschool and school-aged children.