What is Rickettsialpox?

Rickettsialpox is a rare infectious disease caused by a bacteria-like organism known as an intracellular obligate parasite called Rickettsia akari. This disease is usually mild, but can be serious if left untreated.

What Are the Symptoms of Rickettsialpox?

The most common symptoms of rickettsialpox include a fever, chills, headache, and aching muscles. Most people experience a small, red, scab-like lesion on their skin within one to three days after being bitten by the infectious mite. The lesion may start as a papule (a raised bump on the skin), that slowly develops a central depression surrounded by a raised edge. It will eventually crust and scab over. Other symptoms can include swollen glands and lymph nodes, joint pain, and fatigue.

How is Rickettsialpox Diagnosed?

If you show signs and symptoms of rickettsialpox, your doctor will take a blood sample to test for antibodies to Rickettsia akari, the organism that causes this condition. Other tests may be done to rule out other diseases. Your doctor may also take swabs of any lesions you might have to help make the diagnosis.

Treatment for Rickettsialpox

Rickettsialpox is usually treated with antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline. Treatment usually lasts from seven to ten days. If left untreated, rickettsialpox can lead to serious complications such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

Preventing Rickettsialpox

Since Rickettsia akari is spread to humans through the bite of a mite, the best way to prevent rickettsialpox is to avoid contact with mites. Use insect repellent if you are in an area that is known to have these mites. Other prevention measures can also include:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
  • Regularly cleaning, vacuuming, and dusting your home to reduce the number of mites.
  • Getting rid of clutter and other potential hiding places for mites.
  • Maintaining good hygiene and washing your hands often.