Category: 

What is Epidemic Typhus?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Although they mainly functioned as downspouts, gargoyles were also intended to scare people into attending church.  more...

December 3 ,  1989 :  The Cold War officially ended.  more...

Epidemic typhus is a disease which is bacterial in origin which has been documented in human populations for over 1,000 years. Untreated, typhus can be deadly, and despite control measures, periodic outbreaks of typhus do occur in various regions of the world. Epidemic typhus is most commonly seen during periods of stress, crowding, and deprivation, such as during wartime and in refugee camps, where it can spread quickly between people with weakened immune systems.

There are a number of alternate names for typhus, many of which reference the conditions in which it thrives, such as famine fever, ship fever, jail fever, camp fever, or hospital fever. This disease is also known as petechial fever, a nod to the distinctive rash associated with epidemic typhus, and putrid fever.

This disease is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii. The bacterium is ingested by lice which in turn feed on people, leaving feces behind. When people scratch the louse bites or touch a bite and then handle the mucus membranes around their eyes, the bacterium enters the body. Someone who carries the bacterium can pass it to other people as lice feed on the original patient's body and spread the organism to new victims. In unclean conditions, typhus can move easily from person to person.

Ad

It can take one to two weeks for epidemic typhus to incubate in the body. Once the disease breaks out, it is characterized by a very high fever and a state of stupor; the term “typhus” is derived from the Greek word for “mist” or “fog,” referencing the state of confusion and fogginess which patients enter. Patients also develop a rash, muscle pains, chills, and headaches. They are often sensitive to light and fall into a delirium.

Epidemic typhus is preventable with vaccines and it can also be treated with antibiotic medications. Furthermore, control measures which limit louse populations can also reduce the risk of spreading typhus. If animals like rats and squirrels which can sustain a population of lice are kept away from human habitation, this also limits the chance that epidemic typhus will gain a foothold.

Typhus is a condition which can recrudesce, meaning that it will recur in a patient after an extended period of reasonably good health. Typhus returns because organisms can linger in the body and when the patient's immune system declines, they can start breeding again. When typhus recurs, it is known as Brill-Zinsser disease.

Ad

You might also Like

Recommended

Discuss this Article

anon77722
Post 2

is this disease deadly or autoimmune?

anon74215
Post 1

this is really disgusting. So what you're saying is if someone has lice, like head lice, they can get Typhus?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email