|Mass death Grave of Typhus in 1945|
Typhus fever is caused by Rickettsia bacteria and transmitted by arthropod like mite, flea or tick bites. When arthropods bites a victim they tend to leave behind the rickettsaie bacteria and on scratching the bite, it opens the skin to the bacteria enabling them to enter the bloodstream and the bacteria grow and get replicated within the blood stream.
The name is derived from the Greek word typhos which means smoky or hazy and describes the state of mind of those victim affected with this condition. The organism Rickettsia is an obligate intracellular parasitic bacterium which does not survive for long outside the living cells and this condition should not be confused with typhoid fever.
Typhoid means `typhus-like’ wherein the diseases are distinct and is caused by different genera of bacteria. Different types of arthropods carry specific rickettsaie bacteria for each type of typhus and the symptoms vary slightly by type, the most common are universal which affect almost all typhus victims.
Three Types of Typhus
Typhus is of three types – Epidemic typhus which is the most serious type, occurs in Africa, South America and Asia. Epidemic typhus is transmitted from person to person by body lice and is not the same as head lice of pubic lice, though a nuisance does not transmit disease.
The body lice get infected with Rickettsia prowazekii bacteria when they tend to feed on the blood of an infected person and if one gets infected by body lice their infected faeces will be deposited on the skin as they feed on the blood. On scratching a bite, the contaminated lice faeces get rubbed in the tiny wound on the skin and become infected. Rare cases of epidemic typhus are by breathing infected dried body louse faeces in the atmosphere.
Endemic typhus, the milder form of the condition, occurs throughout the world and is transmitted by mites, ticks and fleas that are infected with Rickettsia bacteria. These animal carriers tend to live in thick scrub vegetation or on small rodents or mammal like the rats.
Scrub typhus which is also known as Tsutsugamushi fever is transmited from mites which are infected with Orientia tsutsugamushi bacteria. They tend to live in heavy scrub vegetation in rural parts of Southeast Asia, Oceania and northern Australia.
Symptoms of Typhus
The symptoms are somewhat similar in all the three types of Typhus wherein the person will begin to feel unwell for 10 to 14 days after getting infected. A severe headache which is sudden is often the first symptom.Other symptoms could comprise of a fever with the temperature rising above 38.9C or 102F for around 2 weeks, a feeling of nausea and vomiting, a pink or red rash which appears on the chest, spreading to the arms, hands, legs and the feet though not on the face, palms and soles.
The person may also experience abdominal pain and diarrhoea, joint and muscle pain, the most common being the backache, and cough. They may also feel mentally dazed or delirious. Treatment given is antibiotic medication in order to stop the infection and if not treated it could lead to serious complications. Prevention is better than cure and this condition can be prevented by focusing on destroying or avoiding arthropod infestations