Typhus: what it is, symptoms, transmission and treatment


Typhus is an infectious disease caused by the human body flea or louse infected by bacteria of the genus Rickettsia sp., leading to the appearance of initial symptoms similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as high fever, constant headache and general malaise, for example. However, as the bacteria develops inside a person’s cells, spots and rashes can be seen on the skin that spread quickly throughout the body.

It is important that typhus is diagnosed by the general practitioner or infectious disease specialist and treated to prevent disease progression and complications, such as neuronal, gastrointestinal and renal changes, for example. Treatment for typhus can be done at home with antibiotics that should be used as directed by the doctor, even if there are no more symptoms.

typhus symptoms

Symptoms of typhus appear between 7 and 14 days after infection by the bacteria, however the initial symptoms are not very specific. The main symptoms of typhus are:

  • Severe and constant headache;
  • High and prolonged fever;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Appearance of patches and rashes on the skin that spread quickly over the body and usually appear 4 to 6 days after the first symptom appears.

If typhus is not identified and treated quickly, it is possible for the bacteria to infect more cells in the body and spread to other organs, which can cause gastrointestinal problems, loss of kidney function and respiratory changes, and can be fatal especially in people over 50 years old. .

How does the transmission happen?

The transmission of typhus occurs through feces infected by the bacteria of the genus Rickettisa sp. human louse or rat and cat fleas, which are released after the bite. Thus, after the bite of these insects, the person tends to scratch the place, favoring the entry of the bacteria in the body and the development of disease. According to the species and transmitting agent, typhus can be classified into:

  • epidemic typhuswhich is caused by the bite of a flea infected by the bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii;
  • Murine or endemic typhuswhich is caused by the entry of louse-infected feces by the bacteria rickettsia typhi through wounds on the skin or mucous membranes of the eye or mouth, for example.

Thus, to prevent transmission, it is important to ensure hygienic and sanitary conditions in the environment, as well as to use repellents and long clothes, especially in places where these insects are most frequently identified.

What is the difference between typhus, typhoid and spotted fever?

Despite the similar name, typhus and typhoid fever are different diseases: typhus is caused by bacteria of the genus Rickettsia sp., while typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria salmonella typhi, which can be transmitted through the consumption of water and food contaminated by the bacteria, leading to the appearance of symptoms such as high fever, lack of appetite, enlargement of the spleen and the appearance of red spots on the skin, for example. Learn more about typhoid fever.

Typhus and spotted fever are diseases caused by bacteria belonging to the same genus, however the species and the transmitting agent are different. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by the bite of the star tick infected by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii and infection symptoms appear between 3 and 14 days to appear. Here’s how to identify spotted fever.

how is the treatment

Treatment for typhus is done according to medical advice, and the use of antibiotics, such as Doxycycline, for about 7 days, is usually indicated. In most cases, it is possible to notice improvement in symptoms about 2 to 3 days after starting treatment, but it is not advisable to stop treatment, as it is possible that not all bacteria have been eliminated.

Another antibiotic that may be advised is chloramphenicol, however this remedy is not the first choice due to the side effects that may be associated with its use.

In the case of typhus caused by the louse infected by the bacteria, it is best to use medicines to eliminate lice.

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