Close look on typhus

Typhus is an abrupt severe ailment triggered by an infection with the Rickettsia bacteria. The outbreaks are likely to arise in developing countries and areas with poor sanitation or poverty.

It is important to note that the Rickettsia bacteria responsible for typhus is spread by ticks, body lice, fleas and mites.

What are the main types?

  • Epidemic
  • Endemic – this occurs all over the world and transmitted by mites, ticks and fleas
  • Scrub


The symptoms of the 3 main types of typhus are strikingly the same. Generally, an individual with typhus will start to feel sick 10-14 days after being infected.


An abrupt, severe headache is often the initial symptom.

An abrupt, severe headache is often the initial symptom. The other symptoms that might arise include:

  • Fever above 38.9 degrees C for up to 2 weeks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reddish or pinkish rash on the chest that spreads to the hands, arms, legs and feet, except the palms, face and soles
  • Cough
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

Additionally, an individual with typhus often appears mentally dazed or delirious. In some cases, the individual becomes deaf or have tinnitus. These symptoms typically last around 2 weeks.

How is typhus managed?

An individual who becomes sick right after visiting a high-risk area should consult a doctor. The individual is asked about the symptoms and note down the areas he/she has visited recently.

The individual is also assessed physically and undergo several tests such as a blood test. In case a rash is present, the doctor might take a skin biopsy to be analyzed in the laboratory.

A diagnosis of typhus is confirmed if the Rickettsia bacteria is recognized in the skin or blood sample. In most cases, a course of antibiotics is started before the test results are available if typhus is suspected.

If promptly treated with tetracycline or doxycycline, most can dramatically improve in just 48 hours of treatment and fully recovery.


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