Murine Typhus

Murine typhus is an illness caused by the bacteria rickettsia typhi and spread by rat fleas and characterized by fever, chills, body aches and headache.

Where does it occur?

The illness occurs worldwide, the incidence is higher in areas of poor hygiene and overcrowding where people and rats cohabit in the same household.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted through the bite of infected rat fleas.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk for travelers is generally low unless staying in overcrowded and unhygienic accommodations where rats are running around.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually begin 1 -2 weeks after flea bite.

What are the signs and symptoms?

One experiences sudden onset of fever, chills, body aches and headaches. A rash develops in about 20% of people and is described as red in color, flat and about 1-2 mm in size or prickly and pimple like. There may be associated nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

If untreated or severe, neurologic involvement occurs with confusion, decreased level of consciousness and seizures in some patients. Symptoms are generally milder compared to louse borne typhus.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood antibody (IgM/IgG) tests and PCR tests are available; however initial diagnosis is usually based on symptoms, findings and history of exposure.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like Tetracycline are effective.

Is the infected person contagious?

There is no person to person transmission of the disease.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Stay in clean accommodations and practice insect safety measures.

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