Typhus is a sudden severe illness caused by infection with Rickettsia bacteria.
Outbreaks of typhus tend to occur in developing countries and areas where there is poverty, homelessness, close human contact and poor sanitation. The Rickettsia bacteria that cause typhus are carried by body lice, ticks, mites and fleas.
This page covers the main types:
- epidemic typhus (the most serious form) – this type occurs in Africa, South America and Asia, and is transmitted by body lice
- endemic typhus (the milder form of the disease) – it occurs throughout the world and is transmitted by ticks, mites and fleas
- scrub typhus (also called Tsutsugamushi fever) – this type is caught from mites infected with Orientia tsutsugamushi bacteria, which live in heavy scrub vegetation in parts of rural southeast Asia, Oceania and northern Australia
Typhus is generally not a problem in the UK. But you may become infected abroad if you catch Rickettsia-infected lice from infested people or bedding (in budget accommodation or on a sleeper train, for example), or if you are bitten by a Rickettsia-infected tick, mite or flea.
Epidemic typhus is passed from human to human by body lice. These are not the same as head lice or pubic lice, which are a nuisance, but don’t transmit disease. The body lice become infected with Rickettsia prowazekii bacteria when they feed on the blood of an infected person. If you catch these infected body lice (for example, by using a louse-infested blanket), their infected faeces will be deposited on your skin as they feed on your blood. You only need to scratch a bite to rub the contaminated lice faeces into the tiny wound on your skin to become infected. Less commonly, you can catch epidemic typhus by breathing infected dried body louse faeces in airborne dust. The symptoms of epidemic, endemic and scrub typhus are similar. Typically, someone with typhus will start to feel unwell 10 to 14 days after becoming infected.
A sudden, severe headache is often the first symptom.
Other symptoms may include:
- a fever – where body temperature rises above 38.9C/102F for up to two weeks
- a pink or red rash that starts on the chest and spreads to the arms, hands, legs and feet – but not the face, palms and soles
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain and diarrhoea
- joint and muscle pain – backache is common
- a cough
In addition, the person with typhus is often mentally dazed or delirious – the word “typhus” comes from the Greek word meaning “a cloud”. They may become deaf or have ringing in the ears (tinnitus). These symptoms usually last around two weeks.
If typhus is not diagnosed and treated promptly, there is a risk of developing complications, including:
- long-term hearing loss or tinnitus
- low blood pressure
- organ damage and kidney failure
- secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia
The patient may need to have hospital follow-up for some months after recovering from an attack of typhus to receive treatment for these long-term problems. Some people who previously had epidemic typhus will develop a milder form of the disease years later called Brill-Zinsser disease. This tends to happen when the bacteria were not properly killed off the first time and lie dormant (inactive) in the body. The bacteria then reactivate at a later date when the person’s immune system is weak.
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The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700 – 1700 a.d.
666 pages 197 pages
- ISBN-10: 1943820058
- ISBN-13: 978-1943820054
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Kicked Out Of Heaven Vol. II: The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700-1700 a.d. is a 3 volume series that will be released one by one. This book details everything about European society and mentality. In this edition you will find these facts: Alcoholism & The Blue Devils, Insanity & Lead Poisoning, Ergot (LSD) Hallucinations, The Sweating Sickness & Leprosy, The Tobacco Enema & Leeches, The Defloration Mania, The Dancing Mania, The Black Death, The Gravediggers & Body Snatchers, Jews Poisoning the Wells, Millions of Deaths, Folklore & Superstition, Magic Mirrors & Crystal Balls, Witches Dancing in Baby Blood, Pants Made of Human Skin, Necromancy & Ghost Armies, Attacks from The Undead, Lycanthropy & Were-Wolves, Multiple Cases of Vampires, Who is Satan, Lucifer & The Devil!
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