Typhus

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

Bacterial Infections 101 Pictures Slideshow

Typhus Prevention

How do you protect yourself from murine typhus?

Remove pet food, cover garbage containers, and trim vegetation around buildings to discourage rats and opossums from around your home. If you see live or dead opossums on your property, call your local animal control. Keep pet cats indoors as much as possible and consult your veterinarian about proper flea control on pets.

SOURCE: CDC


Quick GuideTravel Health: Vaccines & Preventing Diseases Abroad

Travel Health: Vaccines & Preventing Diseases Abroad

Typhus facts

  • Typhus is a bacterial disease; there are two types termed endemic and epidemic.
  • Typhus has a long and deadly history, especially epidemic typhus.
  • Typhus is caused by bacteria. Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus. Rickettsia typhi and, occasionally, R. felis cause endemic typhus and are transmitted to humans by vectors such as lice (mainly epidemic) and fleas (mainly endemic).
  • Risk factors include visiting or living in areas where rats, mice, and other animals have high populations (for example, disaster areas, poverty-stricken areas, refugee camps, jails) where vectors such as fleas and lice can carry the bacteria from the animals to infect humans.
  • Endemic typhus symptoms can include rash that begins on the body trunk and spreads, high fever, nausea, malaise, diarrhea, and vomiting; Epidemic typhus has similar but more severe symptoms, including bleeding into the skin, delirium, hypotension, and death.
  • Typhus is diagnosed by patient history, physical exam, and several tests (PCR, histological staining) based on immunological techniques. Some tests may need to be done in state or CDC labs.
  • Antibiotics (for example, azithromycin [Zithromax, Zmax], doxycycline [Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox], tetracycline [Sumycin], or chloramphenicol) are used to treat endemic and epidemic typhus.
  • The prognosis for endemic typhus is usually good to excellent, but the epidemic typhus prognosis can range from good, with early effective treatment, to poor, with the elderly often having the worst prognosis.
  • Both types of typhus can be reduced or prevented by good hygiene and clean living conditions that reduce or eliminate exposure to rats, mice, and other animals and the vectors that they carry (lice, fleas). There is no commercially available vaccine against either endemic or epidemic typhus.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Typhus - Causes

    What was the possible cause of your typhus infection?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Typhus - Symptoms and Signs

    What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with your typhus infection?

    Post
  • Typhus - Diagnosis

    Discuss the events that led to a diagnosis of typhus.

    Post
  • Typhus - Prevention

    Please share your tips and suggestions for preventing a typhus infection.

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors