Epidemic typhus, also known as louse-borne typhus is an uncommon disease that is caused by bacteria called Rickettsia prowazekii.
Epidemic typhus can be easily spread to people through contact with infected body lice. However epidemic typhus was responsible for millions of deaths in previous centuries, it is now considered a rare disease.
Still, cases continue to occur specially in areas where extreme overcrowding is common and body lice can easily travel from one person to another.
In some people very less known cases of epidemic typhus which is called as sylvatic typhus can occur. Mostly, these cases happen when people are exposed to flying squirrels and their nests.
Diagnosing and Testing
- The symptoms of epidemic typhus are similar to the symptoms of many other diseases. See your doctor if you have the symptoms listed above after travel or contact with animals.
- Tell your doctor if you have come in contact with flying squirrels or their nests.
- Your doctor will suggest a blood test to look for epidemic typhus and other diseases.
- Laboratory testing and reporting of results can take many weeks. Your doctor can start treatment before results are available.
Signs & Symptoms of Epidemic Typhus
Symptoms of epidemic typhus begin within 2 weeks after contact with infected body lice. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Fever and chills
- Rapid breathing
- Body and muscle aches
Treatment for Epidemic Typhus
- Epidemic typhus should be treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. Doxycycline can be given to persons of any age.
- Antibiotics are one of the most effective cures if given soon after symptoms begin.
- Generally, people who are treated early with doxycycline recover quickly.