Typhus is a group of bacterial diseases caused by rickettsia bacteria infection. It is zoonotic, meaning that the illness passes from infected animals to humans. Fleas, mites, and lice are some examples of typical carriers.
Typhus is more common in underdeveloped areas, but it can be found worldwide. One thing people are still unclear about is if typhus is deadly. Can this disease kill you? Discover more about typhus and its effects below.
How Deadly Is Typhus?
The earlier you visit a doctor and receive proper treatment for typhus, the better your recovery period will be. There are three types of typhus – epidemic, endemic, and scrub. Endemic and epidemic are the two main types. The longer you wait to receive a diagnosis or treatment, the more damage you cause to your health.
Untreated endemic typhus has a death rate of under .2% of patients. In contrast, untreated epidemic typhus has a death rate of 10% – 60% of infected patients. People over 60 years old have the highest death rates. Even if someone does not die from typhus, complications can make things very difficult. Some examples are renal insufficiency, pneumonia, and central nervous system problems.
Generally, physicians recommend antibiotic therapy for endemic, and epidemic typhus infections since early treatment can cure most infected individuals. Some antibiotics you may be placed on include azithromycin, doxycycline, and tetracycline. If treatment is delayed and complications become very severe, patients may die.
To avoid typhus, the best thing to do is stay away from rodents and wild animals. Also, be wary of any animals that may carry mites, fleas, and ticks on their bodies. If you have pets, ensure that they avoid contact with rodents or animals that may spread fleas or mites. You can lower your risk of infection by limiting how pests can enter your home.
There was a vaccine for typhus during World War II, but the shrinking number of cases halted its production. The easiest way to prevent typhus is by shielding yourself from pests.
Some prevention tips are:
- Maintain adequate hygiene (guards against infected lice)
- Control the rodent population (rodents carry arthropods)
- Avoid traveling to regions where typhus exposure has occurred, or low sanitation is a high risk
- Take advantage of medicine (Ex. chemoprophylaxis)
Passport Health can advise you on what you may need to avoid typhus while abroad. Make sure you are protected by calling or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by Shelbi Jackson. Shelbi is a freelance writer from Illinois. She enjoys writing about various topics from health care to music and book reviews. In her free time, you can find her at a live event, taking a stroll outside, or playing with the family dogs.