Typhus refers to a group of infectious diseases caused by the bacteria of the genus ‘Rickettsia’. There are several types of typhus that usually cause fever, skin rash, headaches, and muscle pain. Find out more about the symptoms and the treatment of this condition, through this HealthHearty write-up.
Typhus is a bacterial disease caused by the bacteria of the Rickettsia genus. It is generally caused by two types of Rickettsia bacteria, which are known as Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia prowazekii. There are mainly four types of typhus – epidemic typhus, endemic or murine typhus, Brill-Zinsser disease, and scrub typhus.
The epidemic and Brill-Zinsser disease are caused by Rickettsia prowazekii, while the murine or endemic form of the disease is caused by Rickettsia typhi. On the other hand, Rickettsia tsutsugamushi is the bacteria responsible for causing scrub typhus. The first vaccine for this disease was developed by Rudolf Weigl, a Polish zoologist.
The bacteria that cause this infectious disease are usually carried by parasitic insects like lice and fleas. Epidemic typhus commonly affects people living in overcrowded areas due to poor hygiene. The bacteria usually reside on the feces of lice and can easily enter the body through wounds caused by scratching the insect bites.
Similarly, the bacteria responsible for causing endemic or murine typhus are transmitted by fleas. Bill-Zinsser disease is a mild form of epidemic typhus, and is caused by the reactivation of the bacteria in a previously infected individual. The bacteria that cause scrub typhus are generally carried by mites or chiggers. So, lack of proper hygiene and the exposure to lice, fleas, and rat or rat feces, can increase the risk of contracting the disease.
Signs of Typhus
The symptoms of the different types of typhus are more or less similar, but can vary in severity depending on the specific type. The epidemic typhus is a severe infection that produces high fever, headaches, weakness, skin rash, and muscle pain. Sometimes, it can also cause a severe disease, known as encephalitis, which is characterized by the inflammation of the brain.
The skin rash caused by this condition generally appears in the middle part of the body, like the chest, back, or the abdomen, and then spread to the arms, legs, and other parts of the body. The symptoms of Bill-Zinsser disease include fever and a skin rash.
The symptoms of the endemic or murine form of the disease are, a high fever accompanied by chills and headaches that can last for several days. A dry cough, skin rashes, and joint pain can also be experienced by the affected individual. It can also cause abdominal pain, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and delirium at times. People with scrub typhus may experience cough, fever, and muscle pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Several tests are carried out to determine the response of the antibodies to viruses and bacteria, in order to diagnose the disease. Generally, a blood count test is carried out to find out the level of platelets and blood cells, as this infection can cause anemia and a low count of platelets. Blood tests are also performed to determine the level of typhus antibodies, albumin, sodium, and liver enzymes. The entire process of diagnosing the disease can take considerable time, for which physicians may start the preliminary treatment after evaluating the symptoms.
This infectious disease is treated with antibiotics like tetracycline and chloramphenicol. The epidemic form may require the administration of intravenous fluid and oxygen. The older population, usually those older than 60 years are at an increased risk of adversely affected by this disease, especially by the epidemic form, which is the most severe form of typhus.
This infectious disease may cause some serious complications, like pneumonia, and damage to the central nervous system and the kidney. However, the disease can be prevented by maintaining proper personal and communal hygiene, and by reducing the exposure to parasitic insects like lice and fleas.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.