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.

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What are typhus risk factors?

Typhus risk factors include living in or visiting areas where the disease is endemic. These include many port cities where rat populations are high, and areas where trash accumulates and hygiene may be low. Disaster zones, homeless camps, poverty-stricken areas, and other similar situations that allow rodents to come into close contact with people represent the greatest threats. These are the same type of conditions that lead to outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis, and viral diseases like influenza. Spring and summer months are when fleas (and ticks) are most active, but infections can occur any time of the year.

What are typhus symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of endemic typhus develop within about one to two weeks after initial infection and may include a high fever (about 105 F), headache, malaise, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A rash on the chest and abdomen typically begins about four to seven days after the initial symptoms above develop, and the rash often spreads. Some patients may also have a cough and abdominal, joint, andback pain. Symptoms may last for about two weeks and, barring complications or death (less than 2% die), symptoms abate.

However, epidemic typhus symptoms, although initially similar to endemic typhus, become more severe. The rash may cover the entire body except the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. Patients may develop additional symptoms of bleeding into the skin (petechiae), delirium, stupor, hypotension, and shock, which can cause their death.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015
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