What Is Typhus?
An infectious disease caused by rickettsiae, characterized by a purple rash, headaches, fever, and usually delirium, and historically a cause of high mortality during wars and famines. There are several forms, transmitted by vectors such as lice, ticks, mites, and rat fleas.
Typhus is an illness similar to but different from typhoid. The infection is transmitted by bites of lice, ticks and rat fleas
Causes of Typhus
Typhus is not transmitted from person to person like a cold or the flu. There are three different types of typhus and each type is caused by a different type of bacterium and transmitted by a different type of arthropod.
Types of Typhus
Murine /Endemic Typhus
Murine /Endemic Typhus
Formerly known as murine typhus, this type is caused by Rickettsia typhi and is carried by the rat or cat flea. Endemic typhus can be found worldwide. It may be found among people in close contact with rats or areas where rats live. It isn’t commonly found in the United States, but cases have been reported in some areas, primarily Texas and southern California.
This type is caused by Rickettsia prowazekii and carried by the body louse. It can be found around the world, including in the United States, but is typically found in areas of high population and poor sanitation, where conditions promote lice infestation.
This type is caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi and carried by mites. This type of typhus is more commonly found in Asia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. It is also called tsutsugamushi disease.
The louse, flea, tick, or mite becomes infected with the bacteria when they feed on the blood of an infected person or an infected rodent (in the case of endemic typhus). If you come in contact with these infected arthropods (for example, by sleeping on bed sheets infested with lice), their feces may be deposited on your skin when the louse, flea, tick, or mite feeds on your blood. If you scratch the bite, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream through the tiny wound on your skin.
Symptoms/Signs of Typhus
Symptoms of endemic typhus develop within about one to two weeks after initial infection and may include a high fever (about 105 F),
Symptoms of Murine or endemic typhus may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dull red rash that begins on the middle of the body and spreads
- Extremely high fever (105 - 106 degrees Fahrenheit), which may last up to 2 weeks
- Hacking, dry cough
- Joint and muscle pain
- High fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Joint pain (arthralgia)
- Lights that appear very bright; light may hurt the eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Rash that begins on the chest and spreads to the rest of the body (except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet)
- Severe headache
- Severe muscle pain (myalgia)
However, epidemic typhus symptoms, although initially similar to endemic typhus, become more severe. The rash may cover the entire body except the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. Patients may develop additional symptoms of bleeding into the skin (petechiae), delirium, stupor, hypotension, and shock, which can cause their death.
How to diagnose Typhus
The diagnosis is based on the patient's clinical history, physical exam, and tests based on identification of the bacterial genus and species by PCR testing of a skin biopsy from skin rash or lesions, or blood samples. Immunohistological staining can identify the bacteria within infected tissue (skin tissue, usually). Typhus can also be diagnosed, usually late or after the disease has been treated with antibiotics, when significant titers of anti-rickettsial antibodies are detected by immunological techniques. Although some state labs may do these tests, the CDC should be contacted for testing questions and be given information if there is an outbreak of epidemic typhus. These tests help distinguish between epidemic and endemic typhus, anthrax, and other viral diseases.
How to Prevent Typhus to remove lice from (someone or something)
- Keep clean. Delouse the whole family regularly.
- Remove ticks from your dogs and do not allow dogs in your house.
- Kill rats. Use cats or traps (not poison, which can be dangerous to other animals children).
- Kill rat fleas. Do not handle dead rats.
- The fleas may jump off onto you.
- Drown and burn the rats and their fleas.
- Put insecticide into rat holes and nests.
Antibiotic therapy is recommended for both endemic and epidemic typhus infections because early treatment with antibiotics (for example, azithromycin, doxycycline, tetracycline, or chloramphenicol) can cure most people infected with the bacteria.
Antibiotics are the standard of care in the treatment of typhus. Continue antibiotics for 48-72 hours after the fever has resolved. A second course of antibiotic therapy is usually curative in cases of recrudescent typhus.
Typhus Home Remedies/Home Cure
At home cold compresses can help bring the fever down. Keep your body hydrated with plenty of water and juices in case suffering from Diarrhoea. Do not expose your eyes to sun or even normal light. You can wear sunglasses or just eye flaps. Exposure to sun is good for the body in this case, but not for the eyes. Take adequate rest and eat light food that does not weigh down the digestive system.
Complications of Typhus
Complications are rare for most types of typhus, except for immune compromised patients; there could also be complication in severe cases of typhus. This could include: