Scrub Typhus (Tsutsugamushi's Disease)

Scrub typhus is an illness caused by the bacteria orientia tsutsugamushi and is spread through the bite of mites and characterized by fever, chills, headache and rash.

As the name implies the mites (chiggers) are found on scrub vegetation like grasses and bushes.

Where does it occur?

It occurs primarily in Asia from Pakistan eastward with high incidences in Thailand and Japan. The disease has also been seen from southern Siberia to Australia.

How is it transmitted?

The disease is transmitted through the bites of mites (chiggers) found on scrub grass and bushes.

What is the risk for travelers?

Risk is generally low unless engaged in extensive outdoor activities like camping, hiking, hunting and agriculture.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop anywhere from 1-3 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

At the site of the mite (chigger) bite a small ulcer with redness and crusty brown to black center develops. A few days later, there is sudden onset of fever, chills, profuse sweating, body aches and headaches. The lymph nodes in the area of the mite bite becomes swollen and painful. Then a rash that is red and flat to pimple or prickly develops. If untreated the illness can spread to the central nervous system with symptoms of headache, confusion and decreased level of consciousness.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood antibody (IgM/IgG) and PCR tests are available.

Is there any treatment?

The antibiotic tetracycline is effective.

Is the infected person contagious?

There is no person to person transmission.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid mite bites by following insect safety measures and avoid activities involving scrub vegetation if possible.

advice for your illness and travel
learn about an exotic disease