Typhus

Typhus is an infectious bacterial disease that can be spread by the bite of some carrier insects like lice, fleas, and ticks. Typhus outbreaks in the Philippines are rare and they are more common in cool mountainous regions of Asia, Africa, and South America.

Last Updated: February 25, 2024

Typhus is caused by different types of rickettsia bacteria. Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus while Rickettsia typhi endemic typhus. Scrub typhus is another variant of disease that is caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi bacteria that is found in larval mites.

 

What is important to know is that these bacteria are carried by insects like lice, fleas, and ticks. The bites of these insects transmit the bacteria to the person and scratching at the bite area can cause the skin to open up more. This allows the bacteria to have greater access to the bloodstream where it can better reproduce and grow. 

 

Typhus spreads easier in overcrowded areas where body lice can jump from one person to another. 

 

Patients with typhus usually show symptoms two weeks after contact with infected body lice. The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Rapid breathing
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Rash
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion 

Since the symptoms of this disease are similar to other diseases, the doctor will need the patient’s history to successfully diagnose typhus. Some common questions that physicians may ask their patient’s are:

  • Are you living in a crowded environment?
  • Was there a recent typhus outbreak in your community?
  • Have you traveled abroad recently?

Diagnostic tests can also be ordered by a doctor to confirm typhus. These include:

  • Skin biopsy (skin sample will taken and tested)
  • Blood tests (can indicate presence of infection)
  • Other laboratory tests (Western blot and immunofluorescence test)

 

Once typhus is successfully diagnosed, antibiotics can be prescribed to the patient to control the infection. Doxycycline is the preferred treatment by most but there are other alternatives such as chloramphenicol for those that are not pregnant and not breastfeeding, and ciprofloxacin for those that cannot be given doxycycline.

Currently, there is no vaccine for typhus so the best way to avoid contracting typhus is by avoiding regions wherein this disease is common. On the other hand, if a person is living in an overcrowded area where typhus is inherent, applying insect repellent to the body and wearing clothes that cover the arms and legs will also lessen the chance of getting this disease. 

 

www.vdh.virginia.gov

www.uptodate.com

www.uptodate.com

www.cdc.gov

www.cdc.gov

Last Updated: February 25, 2024