FLEA-BORNE (MURINE) TYPHUS

Flea-Borne (Murine) Typhus is an illness caused by orientia bacteria or rickettsia. It can be spread by fleas or infected mites. Typhus has largely been eradicated by modern hygiene, although it can still occur in areas with poor basic sanitation or if an infected animal spreads it. 

TYPES

Typhus is primarily caused by one of three distinct bacteria.

  • Murine Typhus. Fleas can transmit it to humans by biting infected animals, primarily rats. Texas, Hawaii, and California have seen the majority of recorded cases in the US. 
  • Epidemic Typhus. It is an uncommon variety that body lice infection spreads. Outside of extremely congested living situations, it’s unlikely to occur. Infected flying squirrels can spread a particular strain of epidemic typhus. But it is also exceedingly uncommon. 
  • Scrub Typhus. It is primarily disseminated in rural Southeast Asia, Japan, China, India, and northern Australia by infected chiggers or mites. 

Antibiotics are a simple and effective treatment for all three types of typhus. However, if you suspect you may have been exposed, seek medical attention right away, as they have the potential to cause significant sickness.

SYMPTOMS

You will begin to feel sick with any type of flea-borne (murine) typhus 10 to 2 weeks after the typhus germs enter your body. You probably have:

  • Headache 
  • Fever 
  • Chills 
  • Muscle pain
  • Rashes

Other symptoms of murine typhus include: 

  • Coughing 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Nausea 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Vomiting 

In cases of epidemic typhus, you can see:

  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Fast breathing
  • Confusion

Additional signs of scrub typhus include: 

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Dark scab
  • Confusion and other mental conditions

DIAGNOSIS

If you have recently traveled to a region where typhus is prevalent, your doctor may order a blood test to look for the typhus bacteria. 

Obtaining the results of those blood tests can occasionally take weeks. In order to be safe, the doctor may advise that you start your antibiotic therapy immediately. 

TREATMENT

The antibiotic doxycycline is the most successful treatment for each of the three types of typhus. 

  • Doxycycline was shown to be effective against epidemic typhus with a single dose. Other disease strains are easily treated with doxycycline as well. 
  • You should start taking it as soon as your symptoms appear for the best results. 
  • Another antibiotic, such as ciprofloxacin, may be prescribed by doctors if you are allergic to doxycycline or if it is ineffective for you.

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