Murine (Endemic) Typhus
Typhus refers to a group of infectious diseases that are
caused by rickettsial organisms and result in an acute
febrile illness; arthropod vectors transmit the
etiologic agents to humans. The principle diseases of
this group are epidemic (or louse-borne) typhus, murine
(or endemic) typhus, and scrub typhus. Murine typhus is
the only one of these diseases naturally occurring in
LAC and is caused by two bacteria Rickettsia typhi
and R. felis
; both are transmitted through the
bite or contact with feces of an infected flea.
Reservoir animals are predominantly rats and opossums
that live in areas with heavy foliage. In LAC, most
reported cases of typhus occur in residents of the
foothills of central LAC. Symptoms include fever, severe
headache, chills, and myalgia. A fine, macular rash may
appear three to five days after onset. Occasionally,
complications such as pneumonia or hepatitis may occur.
Fatalities are uncommon, occurring in less than 1% of
cases. The disease is typically mild in young children.
Typhus infection is not vaccine preventable, but can be
treated with antibiotics.
How do you get it?
People get it after being exposed to fleas that are infected with a
rickettsial organism. The flea lives on small mammals that are infected
with the organism. When the flea bites the animal it swallows the
bacteria. The next time it bites a person, it will infect the person
with the bacteria.
How long does it take to get murine typhus after I've been
exposed to an infected flea?
It takes 1 to 2 weeks to show symptoms, usually about 12 days.
Sometimes people donít remember that theyíve been
exposed to fleas.
How can I keep from getting murine typhus?
Make sure your cats and dogs are free of fleas. Do not leave
food out for wild (feral) cats to eat. They carry fleas. Also,
food left out can attract other wild animals such as opossums and rats
that carry fleas. Avoid any interaction with wild cats.
Remember, you donít need to touch the cat to be exposed to a flea. They
can jump from the cat to you.