Typhus Fever

Typhus Fever

Typhus is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected fleas, lice, or mites. It typically results in fever, headache, and a rash, and can lead to complications including meningitis or even death. Early recognition and treatment are important for a good outcome.

Signs and Symptoms of Typhus Fever

The symptoms of typhus may include:

  • High fever of 102-104°F (38.8-40°C)
  • Headache and body aches
  • Chills
  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
  • Cough and chest discomfort
  • Rash on the chest, abdomen, and back that may spread to the face and extremities
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Delirium, seizures, and confusion (in severe cases)

If left untreated, typhus can cause complications including meningitis, enlarged spleen or liver, and organ failure. Heart and respiratory failure may occur in severe cases.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis is typically based on the symptoms, history, and physical examination in conjunction with laboratory testing. A blood test or testing of a skin scraping may be used to detect the presence of the bacteria.

Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline or chloramphenicol. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.


There is no vaccine to prevent infection; thus, preventive measures are necessary to reduce the risk of exposure to infected fleas, lice, and mites. This may include using insect repellents, wearing protective clothing, and treating animal alternates with flea or tick medication.