What is typhus?

Typhus is an abrupt severe ailment brought about by infection with the Rickettsia bacteria. The outbreaks are likely to arise in developing countries and areas with poor sanitation and close human contact.

The Rickettsia bacteria responsible for typhus are spread by ticks, body lice, fleas and mites. There are 3 main forms such as:

  • Epidemic (most serious) – transmitted by body lice
  • Endemic (mild form of the disease) – reported all over the world and spread by mites, ticks and fleas
  • Scrub (Tsutsugamushi fever) – this form is acquired from mites infected by the Orientia tsutsugamushi bacteria

    typhus
    Pinkish or reddish rash that originates in the chest and spreads to the hands, arms, legs and feet except the face, soles and palms.

One can become infection abroad if bitten by a Rickettsia-infected mite, flea or tick or from infested individuals or bedding.

What are the indications?

The indications of the endemic, epidemic and scrub typhus are strikingly the same. Generally, an individual with typhus starts to feel sick from 10-14 days after being infected.

An abrupt, intense headache is often the initial symptom. This is followed by other symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pinkish or reddish rash that originates in the chest and spreads to the hands, arms, legs and feet except the face, soles and palms
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Muscle and joint pain

Additionally, an individual with typhus often appears mentally dazed or delirious. In some cases, the individual becomes deaf or have ringing in the ears. The symptoms generally last around 2 weeks.

Management of typhus

An individual suspected with typhus is physical assessed and undergo tests such as a blood test to exclude other conditions such as malaria.

In case a rash is present, the doctor might perform a skin biopsy. A diagnosis of typhus is confirmed if the Rickettsia bacteria is identified in the skin or blood sample.

There are instances where antibiotics are started even before the results of the tests are available if typhus is suspected. If the condition is promptly treated with tetracycline or doxycycline, most can improve drastically within 48 hours and can fully recover.

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