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Typhus is a bacterial disease caused by bacteria called "rickettsiae". The disease is spread by ticks, mites, fleas, or lice, each agent having a distinct epidemiology, but all causing a disease. It typically causes a fever that lasts for about twelve days and is accompanied by a headache and chills. In some cases, a light rash may also develop. There is often a large painful sore at the site of the bite and nearby lymph nodes are swollen and painful. Each illness occurs when the bacteria is passed to a human through contact with an infected insect.

Possible Complications

  • Central nervous system breakdown
  • Pneumonia
  • Renal insufficiency

Alternative Names of Typhus: Brill-Zinsser disease; Jail fever

Types of Typhus

  1. Epidemic Typhus: Epidemic typhus is prevalent worldwide. It is an acute disease passed from human to human by the body louse. The disease is characterized by high fever, intractable headache, and rash. Temperature reaches 104° F in several days and remains high. Headache is generalized and intense.
  2. Murine Typhus: Murine typhus is relatively common throughout the world and is transmitted by fleas. It occurs during the summer months when rats and their fleas are most active.
  3. Scrub Typhus: Scrub typhus is spread by mites that feed on infected rodents. Onset of scrub typhus is sudden with fever, chills, headache, and generalized swelling of lymph nodes. A cough is present during the first week of fever and pneumonia may develop. A rash also develops on the torso often extending to the arms and legs.
  4. Tick Typhus: Tick typhus, actually a form of spotted fever, is not uncommon in travelers, Trekkers in southern Africa may be at risk from cattle or wild-animal ticks. Seek local advice on areas where ticks pose a danger and always check your skin carefully for ticks after walking in a danger area such as a tropical forest.

Causes of Typhus

  • Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia prowazekii.
  • Rickettsia typhi causes murine or endemic typhus.
  • Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus and Brill-Zinsser disease.
  • the person scratches it into the wound.
  • The rat, mice, and cats are the usual hosts of spreading typhus
  • Fleas become infected after engaging in a blood meal of a rickettsemic host
  • Aerosolization of the feces and inoculation into the respiratory tract or into a mucous membrane are other possible routes of infection.

Signs & Symptoms of Typhus
The four types of typhus cause similar types of illnesses, though varying in severity. Symptoms of typhus may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Arthralgia
  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Delirium
  • Dry cough
  • Dull red rash
  • High fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Rashes on chest
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Stupor
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis of Typhus
A number of tests exist that can determine the reactions of a patient's antibodies (immune cells in the blood) to the presence of certain viral and bacterial markers. Many tests require a fair amount of time for processing, so practitioners will frequently begin treatment without completing tests, simply on the basis of a patient's symptoms.

Blood tests for typhus may show:

  • High level of typhus antibodies
  • Low level of albumin
  • Low sodium level
  • Mild kidney failure
  • Mildly high liver enzymes

Preventions of Typhus
Prevention for each of these forms of typhus includes

  • A strong insect repellent can help to prevent from typhus
  • Avoid areas where rat fleas or lice might be encountered
  • Avoid exposure to endemic areas
  • Avoid overcrowding
  • Avoidance of the insects that carry the causative bacteria
  • Good hygiene and the use of insect repellents
  • Good sanitation and public health measures reduce the rat population

Treatments of Typhus

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotic therapy should begin promptly when the diagnosis is suspected; thereafter, appropriate laboratory studies can be serially performed as needed. The antibiotics tetracycline or chloramphenicol is used for treatment of each of the forms of typhus
  • Intravenous fluids and oxygen may be necessary for patients with epidemic typhus.

When to seek Medical Advice
Call your health care provider if symptoms of typhus develop. This serious disorder can require emergency care, so be ready if any serious symptom develops.


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